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ENG 101 - Societal Problem and Solution (Ramsey)

Organize Your Research

Now that you have found some credible, authoritative sources, you may be wondering how to organize the information you found in these sources to help you write your paper. This page provides several methods to help you organize your research before you begin the writing process.

Research Note Cards

You may have used Research Note Cards in the past to help you organize information for a research paper. Research Note Cards have you write out quotes or paraphrased information on a note card and include information such as the topic of the source and where you found the source.

There are five parts to Research Note Cards:

  • Part 1: Topic (Front of Card)
    • This is going to be the main idea from your research assignment that your quote will connect to. Creating and organizing your information will make it easier focus your research and complete your assignment.
  • Part 2: Source (Front of Card)
    • This will be the name of the source that your information is from. 
  • Part 3: Quote or paraphrased information (Front of Card)
    • This will be either the quote or your paraphrased sentence(s) from the source. What evidence in this source did you find that will support your thesis statement?
  • Part 4: Page Number (Front of Card)
    • This is the page number that you found the quote on. If your source does not have page numbers (like an internet source) you can either leave this blank or include the section of the online source that you found this information in. 
  • Part 5: Full MLA or APA Citation (Back of Card)
    • Include the complete MLA or APA citation for your source on the back of the note card.


*Note: it is important to only put one quote or paraphrase per notecard. 

Example Note Card

Front and Back of Completed Note Card


In the top left corner of the note card is the topic that the quote relates to in the research paper. 

Underneath the topic in the top left corner of the note card is an abbreviated name of the source this quote came from.

In the center of the note card is the quote/paraphrased information from the source.

In the bottom right corner of the note card is the page number the information came from.


On the back of the note card is the full MLA or APA citation for the source.

*Note: Keep in mind, your note card might not be organized the exact same way as the example. That is okay, as long as you make sure you have all of the information needed listed on the note card.

Next Steps

Because the quotes and paraphrases are on their own note card, you can group and reorder them in the way you want them to appear in your research paper.

  1. Use the topic at the top of each note card to group cards by subject.
  2. Put the groups in the order they should appear in your paper to support your thesis.
  3. Within each group of note cards, order the note cards in the way they'll appear in each paragraph of your paper.
  4. Think about the order information needs to be presented in order to build a case for your thesis.

Once everything is organized by topic and in order, you will have created a map or guide to follow when writing your paper. It may also allow you to spot holes in your reasoning or evidence--you can then return to your sources (or find additional sources) to fill in the needed information.

Works Cited

"The Note Card System." Gallaudet University, 2021,

Source Table

Another way of organizing your sources could be to use a source table in Word or Excel to keep all of your notes in one place. Using a source table in a program like Word or Excel can help you see all of your notes at once and could help you see the connections between your sources easily. You could list out the different quotes or main ideas from each source to make sure they align well with your thesis statement. 

There are a lot of ways that you can organize your table, and you should choose the method that makes the most sense to you. In your table, be sure to include the source name, author, page number (if available), and sections for the direct quotes or paraphrases you want to include. 

Below are templates you can use to organize your research using Word or Excel. Feel free to edit the template to organize sources in a way that works best for you. 

What is an Outline?

A research outline is a tool to help you organize your research. A research outline should be created after you have completed most of your research, but before you begin writing your paper. The outline should act as a map to your paper. It is easier to write a paper that is fully outlined.

Go through all of your sources, take notes on the important points you want to include from each source, and then group them by topic until you have the main ideas of your paper. Order these ideas in a way that makes sense and will support your thesis--walk your reader through each idea so that they come to the conclusion of your argument/thesis.

Things to keep in mind about outlines:

  • There is no one set way to create a research outline. While this guide will give some ideas, there is no wrong way to outline your research paper. That said, if you are submitting an outline for class as part of a grade, make sure you double-check with your instructor if they have any requirements.
  • Things change in the research and writing process all the time! Do not be alarmed when you start writing your research paper if you don't perfectly follow your outline. The outline should be a guide to help you write. 
  • You can also include the URL or the name of the source where you found your information in your outline to help you remember where your information came from and help keep you organized when it comes time to cite your sources.

Outline Examples

Here is an example of an outline structure. Remember, your outline may not look exactly like this, depending on what you are working on. 


  1. Introduction
    1. Introductory Statement
    2. Thesis Statement
  2. Body
    1. Subtopic A
      1. Supporting Evidence
      2. Supporting Evidence
      3. Supporting Evidence
    2. Subtopic B
      1. Supporting Evidence
      2. Supporting Evidence
      3. Supporting Evidence
    3. Subtopic C
      1. Supporting Evidence
      2. Supporting Evidence
      3. Supporting Evidence
  3. Conclusion
    1. Restate Thesis
    2. Compelling Conclusion

Outline Handouts

While these outlines can certainly be used as templates to help you outline your research, if you need to submit an outline for your class, please make sure to follow any requirements for your outline that your instructor requires.

Work Cited

"Types of Outlines and Samples." Purdue Online Writing Lab, 2021,