Note taking


Note-taking is one of the most
time-consuming parts of the research and writing process. Some students try to
skip this step. They write a paper based upon personal opinion and then shoehorn
in a few quotes here and there to satisfy their professor, thinking to fool
them. But no one’s fooled, except maybe the
student. I want to show you a better way. This presentation will demonstrate my
method for taking notes for a research paper. One of your course requirements is
to write a research paper. You have already chosen your topic, done some
background research in the reference collection to come up with a research
question, and created a working outline. You have also searched the library’s
catalog and databases for the required books, e-books, and journal articles, as
well as locating a website or two. Your instinct tells you that you need to
start writing the paper right now, starting with the first source. Your
instinct would be wrong. Your next step is to review each source and then start
taking notes. The research and writing process is 60% prep, 30% writing, and 10% editing. There are several ways to take notes: use handwritten note cards or
write them on a lined writing pad, or type them into a Microsoft Word document.
I prefer using a Word document. When I’m ready to take notes, I open
three documents: my working outline, a new document for my notes, and a new document for my bibliography. Alternatively, you can go to step three of this tutorial
and add your bibliography entries directly into a copy of the paper
template. For the new documents, make sure to change the Normal Style font to Times
New Roman 12-point. Step 1: create a bibliography entry. It is easier to
create a footnote from a bibliography than the reverse. Whether you are using a
citation generator from the Library catalog, or research database, or a
web-based tool like Zoterobib, you need to ensure that the citation is accurate.
The easiest way to do this is when you have the source in your hands. If you are
unsure about the quality of the citation, consult the SCS Guide to Turabian
located on the SCS Writing Center webpage or Turabian Manual for Writers
9th edition and make the necessary changes. Step 2: take notes. First, skim the
source. Look at the table of contents for the structure of the work and the
development of the topic; then the Preface or Introduction for a
description of the approach to the topic, what the author was attempting to do, and
the material covered. Second, start taking notes keep your research question and
preliminary outline in mind so that you avoid wasting time on rabbit trails. From
your sources you will take notes that can be direct quotes, paraphrases, or
summaries of the text. If you copy and paste a quote from a PDF for a website,
make sure you check the spelling and clean up latent formatting brought
over from the original document. Your notes can also include comments:
observations about the subject matter, comparisons to other readings, ideas
about other possible sources, modifications to the paper, doubts or
questions you might have, information missing or avoided in the sources, or
even tangential thoughts. Also, make sure to write down the type of note taken.
Your notes should be clear enough that another person can understand them. You
don’t want to come back to the notes you took a week ago and not understand what
you wrote. You also want to show how the source
contributes to your argument. It is important for your paper that you
interact with your notes and quotes. In contrast to the opening scenario–of
quotes being shoehorned into a paper–you also don’t want a paper that is
essentially a list of quotes with no analysis or synthesis. One technique is
called the quote sandwich. You introduce the idea by providing background or
context for the quote; next, you have the quote which supports your argument; and
finally, you include commentary about the quote that explains what it means, why
you used it, or why it applies to or furthers the argument. Here is an example
of what I’m talking about. The introduction: Two sociologists from
Baylor University, based upon extensive surveys and interviews in 2008,
identified four distinct types or views of God that Americans have, giving
insight into their worldview. Now the quote: “The way we picture that God
reveals our attitudes on economics, justice, social morality, war, natural
disasters, science, politics, love, and more.” And now the analysis: While these
findings may be of import to sociologists or political scientists
trying to predict the mood of the electorate, they are also of value to
theologians because we all have a view of God. To continue the analogy, you can
see how the introduction, the quote, and the analysis are used to make a nice
sandwich of your words and your sources. Insert a short-form footnote for every
direct quote, paraphrase, or summary. Use Microsoft Word’s Insert Footnote feature
to attach the Author, Short Title (in italics), and page number to the note.
Assign a heading from the outline to the note. While you are taking notes,
keep an eye out for a quote that would be a good attention-getter for your
introduction. Continue source by source, a few at a time (maybe 1-2 sources
a day if you start early enough), until you have completed taking notes from all
your sources. Step 3: prepare the paper document. Open a copy of the Turabian
paper template; the title should be Document 1. Transfer the outline headings
without the numbering into the paper’s headings and attach the correct level of
heading in Styles: Capitalized Roman numerals (I II III) are Heading 1,
capitalized alphabetical letters (A B C) are Heading 2, and Arabic numbers (1 2 3) are Heading 3. Copy and paste your list of sources on to the bibliography page,
attach the Microsoft Word Style for bibliography and alphabetize using the
sort button. Step 4: copy the notes into the paper. Copy and
paste each note with the footnote number into your paper under the correct
heading. Reorder the quotes and notes under each heading so that you can see
the flow of the argument. Remember to use your quote sandwiches. Click on each
footnote separately and select the Microsoft [Word] Style for Footnote. Step 5: create a full footnote.
Once the writing of the paper is finished, you need to create a full
footnote for the first time you used each source. First, make your footnotes
into endnotes. Click on the References tab, open the Footnotes dialog box, and
select Endnotes. Select Convert, OK, and close the dialog box. Click on the View
tab and select Split to split the window between the endnotes and the
bibliography. Scroll the two views so that you can see both the bibliography
and the endnotes. Copy and paste the bibliography entry into the
corresponding note. And convert it into the footnote format: change the order of
the author’s last name, replace the periods with commas, and lowercase words
which follow a comma. If the source is a book put parentheses around the
publication information and end the citation with a page number. If the
source is a journal article or other periodical, only include the page number
from the page cited not the page range for the article. Once all the first
instances of your sources have a full note, remove the split window and return
the endnotes to the footnotes. Before you turn in the paper, after the proofreading
and editing are completed, review the footnotes in your paper and use Ibid. as
necessary. I hope that you have found this video on note-taking and footnotes
helpful and can adapt it to your own processes. If you need help with research
or writing a paper, please talk with your professor or contact the SCS Writing
Center in the Seminary Library.

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