How to Take Notes to Write a Good Essay or Research Paper

Here are a few points to remember when researching on your topic:

  1. Keep an open mind: Although you may have decided on your point of focus, you might encounter something much more interesting, relevant or easily available during your research. Do not limit yourself in the beginning. Find all the possible lines you can take on the topic, and decide which you find more fascinating.
  2. Once you’ve decided on the subject of your research, pool your sources. Being entirely dependent on the internet, or a study by a single individual will not produce a well-researched report. How many sites have you visited? Can you find books pertaining to the material you have found on the sites? The internet is also a great provider of dodgy information. Make sure you can back your research with valid documents. Also, make sure that more than one person has written on the topic you are studying. 3) Once you have background information on the subject, you can choose the point you wish to focus on. Let us assume the topic is “pollution”. Once you’ve properly researched it, you can decide whether you want to focus on air or water or noise pollution or the effect of pollution.
  3. Sift out the necessary bits of information from the unnecessary. Though you may find it interesting that the pollution quantity is higher in developed countries as opposed to underdeveloped, if it does not relate to your topic of ‘ Water pollution in the Alps’ do not use it.Learn to check the index. At times you might not find books or web sites dedicated solely to your topic. Thus it is best if you learn to fine-tune your search. Some sources will only have selected paragraphs, pages, or chapters that fit the focus, so manage your time by reading the relevant information first. If you are searching a general book, such as ‘Pollution in Europe’, go through the chapter listing if there is one, and the index if there is one. Look for key items related to the Alps or anything similar.
  4. Write down every useful bit of information you find. Keep track Of your notes by writing down the source, as well where you found the information and page number. This will help you if you forget where you have taken your information from. It will also make citation easy.
  5. Keeping tracks of notes will be easier if you keep a separate sheet for each source you plan to use. Write out the full bibliographic information at the top of the sheet or source. Then just include the page number beside each note. Also, be sure to put quotation marks around things you've quoted directly to make sure you don't confuse them with your paraphrasing later.
  6. If your sources contradict each other, note down the contradictions completely and if possible, validate those sources. Many theories contradict each other, and you will encounter information from biased resources. As long as you realize those sources are prejudiced, and also offer the other side of the argument, your research will not be tainted.

Have a proper system of compiling your notes. Tedious and meticulous research mean nothing if the information is not properly organized and placed in a systematic order.