• 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
  • 1 Unit Introduction
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 "Reading" to Understand and Respond
  • 1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez
  • 1.3 Glance at Critical Response: Rhetoric and Critical Thinking
  • 1.4 Annotated Student Sample: Social Media Post and Responses on Voter Suppression
  • 1.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text”
  • 1.6 Evaluation: Intention vs. Execution
  • 1.7 Spotlight on … Academia
  • 1.8 Portfolio: Tracing Writing Development
  • Further Reading
  • Works Cited
  • 2.1 Seeds of Self
  • 2.2 Identity Trailblazer: Cathy Park Hong
  • 2.3 Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation
  • 2.4 Annotated Sample Reading from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
  • 2.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about How Identity Is Constructed Through Writing
  • 2.6 Evaluation: Antiracism and Inclusivity
  • 2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English
  • 2.8 Portfolio: Decolonizing Self
  • 3.1 Identity and Expression
  • 3.2 Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
  • 3.3 Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
  • 3.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • 3.5 Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
  • 3.6 Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
  • 3.7 Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
  • 3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
  • 3.9 Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
  • Works Consulted
  • 2 Unit Introduction
  • 4.1 Exploring the Past to Understand the Present
  • 4.2 Memoir Trailblazer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • 4.3 Glance at Genre: Conflict, Detail, and Revelation
  • 4.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
  • 4.5 Writing Process: Making the Personal Public
  • 4.6 Editing Focus: More on Characterization and Point of View
  • 4.7 Evaluation: Structure and Organization
  • 4.8 Spotlight on … Multilingual Writers
  • 4.9 Portfolio: Filtered Memories
  • 5.1 Profiles as Inspiration
  • 5.2 Profile Trailblazer: Veronica Chambers
  • 5.3 Glance at Genre: Subject, Angle, Background, and Description
  • 5.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Remembering John Lewis” by Carla D. Hayden
  • 5.5 Writing Process: Focusing on the Angle of Your Subject
  • 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
  • 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
  • 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
  • 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
  • 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
  • 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
  • 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
  • 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
  • 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
  • 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
  • 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
  • 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
  • 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
  • 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
  • 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
  • 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
  • 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
  • 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
  • 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
  • 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
  • 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
  • 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
  • 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
  • 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
  • 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
  • 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
  • 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
  • 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
  • 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
  • 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
  • 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
  • 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
  • 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
  • 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
  • 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
  • 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
  • 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
  • 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
  • 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
  • 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
  • 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
  • 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
  • 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
  • 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
  • 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
  • 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
  • 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
  • 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
  • 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
  • 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
  • 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
  • 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
  • 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
  • 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
  • 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
  • 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
  • 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
  • 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
  • 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
  • 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
  • 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
  • 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
  • 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
  • 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
  • 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
  • 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
  • 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
  • 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
  • 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
  • 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
  • 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
  • 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
  • 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
  • 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
  • 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
  • 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
  • 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
  • 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
  • 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
  • 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
  • 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
  • 3 Unit Introduction
  • 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
  • 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
  • 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
  • 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
  • 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
  • 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
  • 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
  • 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
  • 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
  • 17.1 “Reading” Images
  • 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
  • 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
  • 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
  • 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
  • 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
  • 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
  • 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
  • 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
  • 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
  • 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
  • 18.3 Glance at Genre: Genre, Audience, Purpose, Organization
  • 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
  • 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
  • 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
  • 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
  • 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
  • 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
  • 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
  • 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
  • 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
  • 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
  • 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
  • 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
  • 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
  • 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
  • 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
  • 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
  • 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
  • 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
  • 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
  • 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
  • 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Employ the methods and technologies commonly used for research and communication within various fields.
  • Practice and apply strategies such as interpretation, synthesis, response, and critique to compose texts that integrate the writer’s ideas with those from appropriate sources.
  • Analyze and make informed decisions about intellectual property based on the concepts that motivate them.
  • Apply citation conventions systematically.

As you conduct research, you will work with a range of “texts” in various forms, including sources and documents from online databases as well as images, audio, and video files from the Internet. You may also work with archival materials and with transcribed and analyzed primary data. Additionally, you will be taking notes and recording quotations from secondary sources as you find materials that shape your understanding of your topic and, at the same time, provide you with facts and perspectives. You also may download articles as PDFs that you then annotate. Like many other students, you may find it challenging to keep so much material organized, accessible, and easy to work with while you write a major research paper. As it does for many of those students, a research log for your ideas and sources will help you keep track of the scope, purpose, and possibilities of any research project.

A research log is essentially a journal in which you collect information, ask questions, and monitor the results. Even if you are completing the annotated bibliography for Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing , keeping a research log is an effective organizational tool. Like Lily Tran’s research log entry, most entries have three parts: a part for notes on secondary sources, a part for connections to the thesis or main points, and a part for your own notes or questions. Record source notes by date, and allow room to add cross-references to other entries.

Summary of Assignment: Research Log

Your assignment is to create a research log similar to the student model. You will use it for the argumentative research project assigned in Writing Process: Integrating Research to record all secondary source information: your notes, complete publication data, relation to thesis, and other information as indicated in the right-hand column of the sample entry.

Another Lens. A somewhat different approach to maintaining a research log is to customize it to your needs or preferences. You can apply shading or color coding to headers, rows, and/or columns in the three-column format (for colors and shading). Or you can add columns to accommodate more information, analysis, synthesis, or commentary, formatting them as you wish. Consider adding a column for questions only or one for connections to other sources. Finally, consider a different visual format , such as one without columns. Another possibility is to record some of your comments and questions so that you have an aural rather than a written record of these.

Writing Center

At this point, or at any other point during the research and writing process, you may find that your school’s writing center can provide extensive assistance. If you are unfamiliar with the writing center, now is a good time to pay your first visit. Writing centers provide free peer tutoring for all types and phases of writing. Discussing your research with a trained writing center tutor can help you clarify, analyze, and connect ideas as well as provide feedback on works in progress.

Quick Launch: Beginning Questions

You may begin your research log with some open pages in which you freewrite, exploring answers to the following questions. Although you generally would do this at the beginning, it is a process to which you likely will return as you find more information about your topic and as your focus changes, as it may during the course of your research.

  • What information have I found so far?
  • What do I still need to find?
  • Where am I most likely to find it?

These are beginning questions. Like Lily Tran, however, you will come across general questions or issues that a quick note or freewrite may help you resolve. The key to this section is to revisit it regularly. Written answers to these and other self-generated questions in your log clarify your tasks as you go along, helping you articulate ideas and examine supporting evidence critically. As you move further into the process, consider answering the following questions in your freewrite:

  • What evidence looks as though it best supports my thesis?
  • What evidence challenges my working thesis?
  • How is my thesis changing from where it started?

Creating the Research Log

As you gather source material for your argumentative research paper, keep in mind that the research is intended to support original thinking. That is, you are not writing an informational report in which you simply supply facts to readers. Instead, you are writing to support a thesis that shows original thinking, and you are collecting and incorporating research into your paper to support that thinking. Therefore, a research log, whether digital or handwritten, is a great way to keep track of your thinking as well as your notes and bibliographic information.

In the model below, Lily Tran records the correct MLA bibliographic citation for the source. Then, she records a note and includes the in-text citation here to avoid having to retrieve this information later. Perhaps most important, Tran records why she noted this information—how it supports her thesis: The human race must turn to sustainable food systems that provide healthy diets with minimal environmental impact, starting now . Finally, she makes a note to herself about an additional visual to include in the final paper to reinforce the point regarding the current pressure on food systems. And she connects the information to other information she finds, thus cross-referencing and establishing a possible synthesis. Use a format similar to that in Table 13.4 to begin your own research log.

Types of Research Notes

Taking good notes will make the research process easier by enabling you to locate and remember sources and use them effectively. While some research projects requiring only a few sources may seem easily tracked, research projects requiring more than a few sources are more effectively managed when you take good bibliographic and informational notes. As you gather evidence for your argumentative research paper, follow the descriptions and the electronic model to record your notes. You can combine these with your research log, or you can use the research log for secondary sources and your own note-taking system for primary sources if a division of this kind is helpful. Either way, be sure to include all necessary information.

Bibliographic Notes

These identify the source you are using. When you locate a useful source, record the information necessary to find that source again. It is important to do this as you find each source, even before taking notes from it. If you create bibliographic notes as you go along, then you can easily arrange them in alphabetical order later to prepare the reference list required at the end of formal academic papers. If your instructor requires you to use MLA formatting for your essay, be sure to record the following information:

  • Title of source
  • Title of container (larger work in which source is included)
  • Other contributors
  • Publication date

When using MLA style with online sources, also record the following information:

  • Date of original publication
  • Date of access
  • DOI (A DOI, or digital object identifier, is a series of digits and letters that leads to the location of an online source. Articles in journals are often assigned DOIs to ensure that the source can be located, even if the URL changes. If your source is listed with a DOI, use that instead of a URL.)

It is important to understand which documentation style your instructor will require you to use. Check the Handbook for MLA Documentation and Format and APA Documentation and Format styles . In addition, you can check the style guide information provided by the Purdue Online Writing Lab .

Informational Notes

These notes record the relevant information found in your sources. When writing your essay, you will work from these notes, so be sure they contain all the information you need from every source you intend to use. Also try to focus your notes on your research question so that their relevance is clear when you read them later. To avoid confusion, work with separate entries for each piece of information recorded. At the top of each entry, identify the source through brief bibliographic identification (author and title), and note the page numbers on which the information appears. Also helpful is to add personal notes, including ideas for possible use of the information or cross-references to other information. As noted in Writing Process: Integrating Research , you will be using a variety of formats when borrowing from sources. Below is a quick review of these formats in terms of note-taking processes. By clarifying whether you are quoting directly, paraphrasing, or summarizing during these stages, you can record information accurately and thus take steps to avoid plagiarism.

Direct Quotations, Paraphrases, and Summaries

A direct quotation is an exact duplication of the author’s words as they appear in the original source. In your notes, put quotation marks around direct quotations so that you remember these words are the author’s, not yours. One advantage of copying exact quotations is that it allows you to decide later whether to include a quotation, paraphrase, or summary. ln general, though, use direct quotations only when the author’s words are particularly lively or persuasive.

A paraphrase is a restatement of the author’s words in your own words. Paraphrase to simplify or clarify the original author’s point. In your notes, use paraphrases when you need to record details but not exact words.

A summary is a brief condensation or distillation of the main point and most important details of the original source. Write a summary in your own words, with facts and ideas accurately represented. A summary is useful when specific details in the source are unimportant or irrelevant to your research question. You may find you can summarize several paragraphs or even an entire article or chapter in just a few sentences without losing useful information. It is a good idea to note when your entry contains a summary to remind you later that it omits detailed information. See Writing Process Integrating Research for more detailed information and examples of quotations, paraphrases, and summaries and when to use them.

Other Systems for Organizing Research Logs and Digital Note-Taking

Students often become frustrated and at times overwhelmed by the quantity of materials to be managed in the research process. If this is your first time working with both primary and secondary sources, finding ways to keep all of the information in one place and well organized is essential.

Because gathering primary evidence may be a relatively new practice, this section is designed to help you navigate the process. As mentioned earlier, information gathered in fieldwork is not cataloged, organized, indexed, or shelved for your convenience. Obtaining it requires diligence, energy, and planning. Online resources can assist you with keeping a research log. Your college library may have subscriptions to tools such as Todoist or EndNote. Consult with a librarian to find out whether you have access to any of these. If not, use something like the template shown in Figure 13.8 , or another like it, as a template for creating your own research notes and organizational tool. You will need to have a record of all field research data as well as the research log for all secondary sources.

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  • Note-taking

Image of hand taking notes.

Think about how you take notes during class. Do you use a specific system? Do you feel that system is working for you? What could be improved? How might taking notes during a lecture, section, or seminar be different online versus in the classroom? 

Adjust how you take notes during synchronous vs. asynchronous learning (slightly) . 

First, let’s distinguish between  synchronous  and  asynchronous  instruction. Synchronous classes are live with the instructor and students together, and asynchronous instruction is material recorded by the professor for viewing by students at another time. Sometimes asynchronous instruction may include a recording of a live Zoom session with the instructor and students. 

With this distinction in mind,  here are some tips on how to take notes during both types of instruction:

Taking notes during live classes (synchronous instruction).

Taking notes when watching recorded classes (asynchronous instruction)., check in with yourself., if available, annotate lecture slides during lecture., consider writing notes by hand., review your notes., write down questions..

Below are some common and effective note-taking techniques: 

Cornell Notes

If you are looking for help with using some of the tips and techniques described above, come to the ARC’s note-taking workshop, offered several times every semester.

Register for ARC Workshops

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  • Assessing Your Understanding
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  • Effective Learning Practices
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  • Minimizing Zoom Fatigue
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How to take Research Notes

How to take research notes.

Your research notebook is an important piece of information useful for future projects and presentations. Maintaining organized and legible notes allows your research notebook to be a valuable resource to you and your research group. It allows others and yourself to replicate experiments, and it also serves as a useful troubleshooting tool. Besides it being an important part of the research process, taking detailed notes of your research will help you stay organized and allow you to easily review your work.

Here are some common reasons to maintain organized notes:

  • Keeps a record of your goals and thoughts during your research experiments.
  • Keeps a record of what worked and what didn't in your research experiments.
  • Enables others to use your notes as a guide for similar procedures and techniques.
  • A helpful tool to reference when writing a paper, submitting a proposal, or giving a presentation.
  • Assists you in answering experimental questions.
  • Useful to efficiently share experimental approaches, data, and results with others.

Before taking notes:

  • Ask your research professor what note-taking method they recommend or prefer.
  • Consider what type of media you'll be using to take notes.
  • Once you have decided on how you'll be taking notes, be sure to keep all of your notes in one place to remain organized.
  • Plan on taking notes regularly (meetings, important dates, procedures, journal/manuscript revisions, etc.).
  • This is useful when applying to programs or internships that ask about your research experience.

Note Taking Tips:

Taking notes by hand:.

  • Research notebooks don’t belong to you so make sure your notes are legible for others.
  • Use post-it notes or tabs to flag important sections.
  • Start sorting your notes early so that you don't become backed up and disorganized.
  • Only write with a pen as pencils aren’t permanent & sharpies can bleed through.
  • Make it a habit to write in your notebook and not directly on sticky notes or paper towels. Rewriting notes can waste time and sometimes lead to inaccurate data or results.

Taking Notes Electronically

  • Make sure your device is charged and backed up to store data.
  • Invest in note-taking apps or E-Ink tablets
  • Create shortcuts to your folders so you have easier access
  • Create outlines.
  • Keep your notes short and legible.

Note Taking Tips Continued:

Things to avoid.

  • Avoid using pencils or markers that may bleed through.
  • Avoid erasing entries. Instead, draw a straight line through any mistakes and write the date next to the crossed-out information.
  • Avoid writing in cursive.
  • Avoid delaying your entries so you don’t fall behind and forget information.

Formatting Tips

  • Use bullet points to condense your notes to make them simpler to access or color-code them.
  • Tracking your failures and mistakes can improve your work in the future.
  • If possible, take notes as you’re experimenting or make time at the end of each workday to get it done.
  • Record the date at the start of every day, including all dates spent on research.

Types of media to use when taking notes:

Traditional paper notebook.

  • Pros: Able to take quick notes, convenient access to notes, cheaper option
  • Cons: Requires a table of contents or tabs as it is not easily searchable, can get damaged easily, needs to be scanned if making a digital copy

Electronic notebook  

  • Apple Notes  
  • Pros: Easily searchable, note-taking apps available, easy to edit & customize
  • Cons: Can be difficult to find notes if they are unorganized, not as easy to take quick notes, can be a more expensive option

Combination of both

Contact info.

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How to Do Research: A Step-By-Step Guide: 4a. Take Notes

  • Get Started
  • 1a. Select a Topic
  • 1b. Develop Research Questions
  • 1c. Identify Keywords
  • 1d. Find Background Information
  • 1e. Refine a Topic
  • 2a. Search Strategies
  • 2d. Articles
  • 2e. Videos & Images
  • 2f. Databases
  • 2g. Websites
  • 2h. Grey Literature
  • 2i. Open Access Materials
  • 3a. Evaluate Sources
  • 3b. Primary vs. Secondary
  • 3c. Types of Periodicals
  • 4a. Take Notes
  • 4b. Outline the Paper
  • 4c. Incorporate Source Material
  • 5a. Avoid Plagiarism
  • 5b. Zotero & MyBib
  • 5c. MLA Formatting
  • 5d. MLA Citation Examples
  • 5e. APA Formatting
  • 5f. APA Citation Examples
  • 5g. Annotated Bibliographies

Note Taking in Bibliographic Management Tools

We encourage students to use bibliographic citation management tools (such as Zotero, EasyBib and RefWorks) to keep track of their research citations. Each service includes a note-taking function. Find more information about citation management tools here . Whether or not you're using one of these, the tips below will help you.

Tips for Taking Notes Electronically

  • Try using a bibliographic citation management tool to keep track of your sources and to take notes.
  • As you add sources, put them in the format you're using (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Group sources by publication type (i.e., book, article, website).
  • Number each source within the publication type group.
  • For websites, include the URL information and the date you accessed each site.
  • Next to each idea, include the source number from the Works Cited file and the page number from the source. See the examples below. Note that #A5 and #B2 refer to article source 5 and book source 2 from the Works Cited file.

#A5 p.35: 76.69% of the hyperlinks selected from homepage are for articles and the catalog #B2 p.76: online library guides evolved from the paper pathfinders of the 1960s

  • When done taking notes, assign keywords or sub-topic headings to each idea, quote or summary.
  • Use the copy and paste feature to group keywords or sub-topic ideas together.
  • Back up your master list and note files frequently!

Tips for Taking Notes by Hand

  • Use index cards to keep notes and track sources used in your paper.
  • Include the citation (i.e., author, title, publisher, date, page numbers, etc.) in the format you're using. It will be easier to organize the sources alphabetically when creating the Works Cited page.
  • Number the source cards.
  • Use only one side to record a single idea, fact or quote from one source. It will be easier to rearrange them later when it comes time to organize your paper.
  • Include a heading or key words at the top of the card. 
  • Include the Work Cited source card number.
  • Include the page number where you found the information.
  • Use abbreviations, acronyms, or incomplete sentences to record information to speed up the notetaking process.
  • Write down only the information that answers your research questions.
  • Use symbols, diagrams, charts or drawings to simplify and visualize ideas.

Forms of Notetaking

Use one of these notetaking forms to capture information:

  • Summarize : Capture the main ideas of the source succinctly by restating them in your own words.
  • Paraphrase : Restate the author's ideas in your own words.
  • Quote : Copy the quotation exactly as it appears in the original source. Put quotation marks around the text and note the name of the person you are quoting.

Example of a Work Cited Card

Example notecard.

  • << Previous: Step 4: Write
  • Next: 4b. Outline the Paper >>
  • Last Updated: Sep 28, 2023 1:09 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.elmira.edu/research

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Research Process :: Step by Step

  • Introduction
  • Select Topic
  • Identify Keywords
  • Background Information
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note taking tips for research papers

Focus on the information in the article that is relevant to your research question (you may be able to skim over other parts).  Think critically about what you read and build your argument based on it.

Organize your Notes

  • After you take notes, re-read them. 
  • Then re-organize them by putting similar information together. Working with your notes involves re-grouping them by topic instead of by source. Re-group your notes by re-shuffling your index cards or by color-coding or using symbols to code notes in a notebook. 
  • Review the topics of your newly-grouped notes. If the topics do not answer your research question or support your working thesis directly, you may need to do additional research or re-think your original research. 
  • During this process you may find that you have taken notes that do not answer your research question or support your working thesis directly. Don't be afraid to throw them away. 

It may have struck you that you just read a lot of "re" words: re-read, re-organize, re-group, re-shuffle, re-think. That's right; working with your notes essentially means going back and reviewing how this "new" information fits with your own thoughts about the topic or issue of the research.

Grouping your notes will enable you to outline the major sections and then the paragraphs of your research paper.


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Taking Notes from Research Reading

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If you take notes efficiently, you can read with more understanding and also save time and frustration when you come to write your paper. These are three main principles

1. Know what kind of ideas you need to record

Focus your approach to the topic before you start detailed research. Then you will read with a purpose in mind, and you will be able to sort out relevant ideas.

  • First, review the commonly known facts about your topic, and also become aware of the range of thinking and opinions on it. Review your class notes and textbook and browse in an encyclopaedia or other reference work.
  • Try making a preliminary list of the subtopics you would expect to find in your reading. These will guide your attention and may come in handy as labels for notes.
  • Choose a component or angle that interests you, perhaps one on which there is already some controversy. Now formulate your research question. It should allow for reasoning as well as gathering of information—not just what the proto-Iroquoians ate, for instance, but how valid the evidence is for early introduction of corn. You may even want to jot down a tentative thesis statement as a preliminary answer to your question. (See Using Thesis Statements .)
  • Then you will know what to look for in your research reading: facts and theories that help answer your question, and other people’s opinions about whether specific answers are good ones.

2. Don’t write down too much

Your essay must be an expression of your own thinking, not a patchwork of borrowed ideas. Plan therefore to invest your research time in understanding your sources and integrating them into your own thinking. Your note cards or note sheets will record only ideas that are relevant to your focus on the topic; and they will mostly summarize rather than quote.

  • Copy out exact words only when the ideas are memorably phrased or surprisingly expressed—when you might use them as actual quotations in your essay.
  • Otherwise, compress ideas in your own words . Paraphrasing word by word is a waste of time. Choose the most important ideas and write them down as labels or headings. Then fill in with a few subpoints that explain or exemplify.
  • Don’t depend on underlining and highlighting. Find your own words for notes in the margin (or on “sticky” notes).

3. Label your notes intelligently

Whether you use cards or pages for note-taking, take notes in a way that allows for later use.

  • Save bother later by developing the habit of recording bibliographic information in a master list when you begin looking at each source (don’t forget to note book and journal information on photocopies). Then you can quickly identify each note by the author’s name and page number; when you refer to sources in the essay you can fill in details of publication easily from your master list. Keep a format guide handy (see Documentation Formats ).
  • Try as far as possible to put notes on separate cards or sheets. This will let you label the topic of each note. Not only will that keep your notetaking focussed, but it will also allow for grouping and synthesizing of ideas later. It is especially satisfying to shuffle notes and see how the conjunctions create new ideas—yours.
  • Leave lots of space in your notes for comments of your own—questions and reactions as you read, second thoughts and cross-references when you look back at what you’ve written. These comments can become a virtual first draft of your paper.


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Study Skills

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Note making for dissertations: First steps into writing

note taking tips for research papers

Note making (as opposed to note taking) is an active practice of recording relevant parts of reading for your research as well as your reflections and critiques of those studies. Note making, therefore, is a pre-writing exercise that helps you to organise your thoughts prior to writing. In this module, we will cover:

  • The difference between note taking and note making
  • Seven tips for good note making
  • Strategies for structuring your notes and asking critical questions
  • Different styles of note making

To complete this section, you will need:

note taking tips for research papers

  • Approximately 20-30 minutes.
  • Access to the internet. All the resources used here are available freely.
  • Some equipment for jotting down your thoughts, a pen and paper will do, or your phone or another electronic device.

Note taking v note making

When you think about note taking, what comes to mind? Perhaps trying to record everything said in a lecture? Perhaps trying to write down everything included in readings required for a course?

  • Note taking is a passive process. When you take notes, you are often trying to record everything that you are reading or listening to. However, you may have noticed that this takes a lot of effort and often results in too many notes to be useful.  
  • Note making , on the other hand, is an active practice, based on the needs and priorities of your project. Note making is an opportunity for you to ask critical questions of your readings and to synthesise ideas as they pertain to your research questions. Making notes is a pre-writing exercise that develops your academic voice and makes writing significantly easier.

Seven tips for effective note making

Note making is an active process based on the needs of your research. This video contains seven tips to help you make brilliant notes from articles and books to make the most of the time you spend reading and writing.

  • Transcript of Seven Tips for Effective Notemaking

Question prompts for strategic note making

You might consider structuring your notes to answer the following questions. Remember that note making is based on your needs, so not all of these questions will apply in all cases. You might try answering these questions using the note making styles discussed in the next section.

  • Question prompts for strategic note making
  • Background question prompts
  • Critical question prompts
  • Synthesis question prompts

Answer these six questions to frame your reading and provide context.

  • What is the context in which the text was written? What came before it? Are there competing ideas?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the author’s purpose?
  • How is the writing organised?
  • What are the author’s methods?
  • What is the author’s key argument and conclusions?

Answer these six questions to determine your critical perspectivess and develop your academic voice.

  • What are the most interesting/compelling ideas (to you) in this study?
  • Why do you find them interesting? How do they relate to your study?
  • What questions do you have about the study?
  • What could it cover better? How could it have defended its research better?
  • What are the implications of the study? (Look not just to the conclusions but also to definitions and models)
  • Are there any gaps in the study? (Look not just at conclusions but definitions, literature review, methodology)

Answer these five questions to compare aspects of various studies (such as for a literature review. 

  • What are the similarities and differences in the literature?
  • Critically analyse the strengths, limitations, debates and themes that emerg from the literature.
  • What would you suggest for future research or practice?
  • Where are the gaps in the literature? What is missing? Why?
  • What new questions should be asked in this area of study?

Styles of note making

photo of a mind map on a wall

  • Linear notes . Great for recording thoughts about your readings. [video]
  • Mind mapping : Great for thinking through complex topics. [video]

Further sites that discuss techniques for note making:

  • Note-taking techniques
  • Common note-taking methods
  • Strategies for effective note making  

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note taking tips for research papers

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9 Organizing Research: Taking and Keeping Effective Notes

Once you’ve located the right primary and secondary sources, it’s time to glean all the information you can from them. In this chapter, you’ll first get some tips on taking and organizing notes. The second part addresses how to approach the sort of intermediary assignments (such as book reviews) that are often part of a history course.

Honing your own strategy for organizing your primary and secondary research is a pathway to less stress and better paper success. Moreover, if you can find the method that helps you best organize your notes, these methods can be applied to research you do for any of your classes.

Before the personal computing revolution, most historians labored through archives and primary documents and wrote down their notes on index cards, and then found innovative ways to organize them for their purposes. When doing secondary research, historians often utilized (and many still do) pen and paper for taking notes on secondary sources. With the advent of digital photography and useful note-taking tools like OneNote, some of these older methods have been phased out – though some persist. And, most importantly, once you start using some of the newer techniques below, you may find that you are a little “old school,” and might opt to integrate some of the older techniques with newer technology.

Whether you choose to use a low-tech method of taking and organizing your notes or an app that will help you organize your research, here are a few pointers for good note-taking.

Principles of note-taking

  • If you are going low-tech, choose a method that prevents a loss of any notes. Perhaps use one spiral notebook, or an accordion folder, that will keep everything for your project in one space. If you end up taking notes away from your notebook or folder, replace them—or tape them onto blank pages if you are using a notebook—as soon as possible.
  • If you are going high-tech, pick one application and stick with it. Using a cloud-based app, including one that you can download to your smart phone, will allow you to keep adding to your notes even if you find yourself with time to take notes unexpectedly.
  • When taking notes, whether you’re using 3X5 note cards or using an app described below, write down the author and a shortened title for the publication, along with the page number on EVERY card. We can’t emphasize this point enough; writing down the bibliographic information the first time and repeatedly will save you loads of time later when you are writing your paper and must cite all key information.
  • Include keywords or “tags” that capture why you thought to take down this information in a consistent place on each note card (and when using the apps described below). If you are writing a paper about why Martin Luther King, Jr., became a successful Civil Rights movement leader, for example, you may have a few theories as you read his speeches or how those around him described his leadership. Those theories—religious beliefs, choice of lieutenants, understanding of Gandhi—might become the tags you put on each note card.
  • Note-taking applications can help organize tags for you, but if you are going low tech, a good idea is to put tags on the left side of a note card, and bibliographic info on the right side.

note taking tips for research papers

Organizing research- applications that can help

Using images in research.

  • If you are in an archive: make your first picture one that includes the formal collection name, the box number, the folder name and call numbe r and anything else that would help you relocate this information if you or someone else needed to. Do this BEFORE you start taking photos of what is in the folder.
  • If you are photographing a book or something you may need to return to the library: take a picture of all the front matter (the title page, the page behind the title with all the publication information, maybe even the table of contents).

Once you have recorded where you find it, resist the urge to rename these photographs. By renaming them, they may be re-ordered and you might forget where you found them. Instead, use tags for your own purposes, and carefully name and date the folder into which the photographs were automatically sorted. There is one free, open-source program, Tropy , which is designed to help organize photos taken in archives, as well as tag, annotate, and organize them. It was developed and is supported by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. It is free to download, and you can find it here: https://tropy.org/ ; it is not, however, cloud-based, so you should back up your photos. In other cases, if an archive doesn’t allow photography (this is highly unlikely if you’ve made the trip to the archive), you might have a laptop on hand so that you can transcribe crucial documents.

Using note or project-organizing apps

When you have the time to sit down and begin taking notes on your primary sources, you can annotate your photos in Tropy. Alternatively, OneNote, which is cloud-based, can serve as a way to organize your research. OneNote allows you to create separate “Notebooks” for various projects, but this doesn’t preclude you from searching for terms or tags across projects if the need ever arises. Within each project you can start new tabs, say, for each different collection that you have documents from, or you can start new tabs for different themes that you are investigating. Just as in Tropy, as you go through taking notes on your documents you can create your own “tags” and place them wherever you want in the notes.

Another powerful, free tool to help organize research, especially secondary research though not exclusively, is Zotero found @ https://www.zotero.org/ . Once downloaded, you can begin to save sources (and their URL) that you find on the internet to Zotero. You can create main folders for each major project that you have and then subfolders for various themes if you would like. Just like the other software mentioned, you can create notes and tags about each source, and Zotero can also be used to create bibliographies in the precise format that you will be using. Obviously, this function is super useful when doing a long-term, expansive project like a thesis or dissertation.

How History is Made: A Student’s Guide to Reading, Writing, and Thinking in the Discipline Copyright © 2022 by Stephanie Cole; Kimberly Breuer; Scott W. Palmer; and Brandon Blakeslee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Graduate Research: Note-Taking and Organization

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Taking Notes

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Taking Notes for Research Papers

How to Take Notes

First of all, make sure that you record all necessary and appropriate information: author, title, publisher, place of publication, volume, the span of pages, date. It's probably easiest to keep this basic information about each source on individual 3x5 or 4x6 notecards. This way when you come to creating the "Works Cited" or "References" at the end of your paper, you can easily alphabetize your cards to create the list. Also, keep a running list of page numbers as you take notes so that you can identify the exact location of each piece of noted information. Remember, you will have to refer to these sources accurately, sometimes using page numbers within your paper and, depending on the type of source, using page numbers as part of your list of sources at the end of the paper.

Many people recommend taking all your notes on notecards. The advantage of notecards is that if you write very specific notes or only one idea on one side of the card, you can then spread them out on a table and rearrange them as you are structuring your paper. They're also small and neat and can help you stay organized.

Some people find notecards too small and frustrating to work with when taking notes and use a notebook instead. They leave plenty of space between notes and only write on one side of the page. Later, they either cut up their notes and arrange them as they would the cards, or they color code their notes to help them arrange information for sections or paragraphs of their paper.

What to Put into Notes

When you take notes, your job is not to write everything down, nor is it a good idea to give in to the temptation of photocopying pages or articles.

Notetaking is the process of extracting only the information that answers your research question or supports your working thesis directly. Notes can be in one of three forms: summary, paraphrase, or direct quotation. (It's a good idea to come up with a system-- you might simply label each card or note "s" "p" or "q"--as a way of keeping track of the kind of notes you took from a source.) Also, a direct quotation reproduces the source's words and punctuation exactly, so you add quotation marks around the sentence(s) to show this. Remember it is essential to record the exact page numbers of the specific notes since you will need them later for your documentation.

Work carefully to make sure you have recorded the source of your notes and the basic information you will need when citing your source, to save yourself a great deal of time and frustration--otherwise you will have to make extra trips to the library when writing your final draft.

How to Use Idea Cards

While doing your research, you will be making connections and synthesizing what you are learning. Some people find it useful to make "idea cards" or notes in which they write out the ideas and perceptions they are developing about their topic.

How to Work with Notes

  • After you take notes, re-read them.
  • Then re-organize them by putting similar information together. Working with your notes involves re-grouping them by topic instead of by source. Re-group your notes by re-shuffling your index cards or by color-coding or using symbols to code notes in a notebook.
  • Review the topics of your newly-grouped notes. If the topics do not answer your research question or support your working thesis directly, you may need to do additional research or re-think your original research.
  • During this process, you may find that you have taken notes that do not answer your research question or support your working thesis directly. Don't be afraid to throw them away.

It may have struck you that you just read a lot of "re" words: re-read, re-organize, re-group, re-shuffle, re-think. That's right; working with your notes essentially means going back and reviewing how this "new" information fits with your thoughts about the topic or issue of the research.

Grouping your notes should enable you to outline the major sections and then the paragraph of your research paper.

Credit: Online Writing Center, SUNY Empire State College

Organize Your Notes

  • After you take notes, re-read them. 
  • Working with your notes involves re-grouping them by topic instead of by source. Re-group your notes by re-shuffling your index cards or by color-coding or using symbols to code notes in a notebook. 
  • Review the topics of your newly-grouped notes. If the topics do not answer your research question or support your working thesis directly, you may need to do additional research or re-think your original research. 
  • During this process, you may find that you have taken notes that do not answer your research question or support your working thesis directly. Don't be afraid to throw them away. 

Working with your notes involves a lot of repetition: re-reading, re-organizing, re-grouping, and even re-thinking how "new" information fits with your thoughts about the topic or issue of the research. Ultimately, grouping your notes will allow you to outline the major sections and paragraphs of your research paper.

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Research Guides

Gould library, reading well and taking research notes.

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Be Prepared: Keep track of which notes are direct quotes, which are summary, and which are your own thoughts. For example, enclose direct quotes in quotation marks, and enclose your own thoughts in brackets. That way you'll never be confused when you're writing.

Be Clear: Make sure you have noted the source and page number!

Be Organized: Keep your notes organized but in a single place so that you can refer back to notes about other readings at the same time.

Be Consistent: You'll want to find specific notes later, and one way to do that is to be consistent in the way you describe things. If you use consistent terms or tags or keywords, you'll be able to find your way back more easily.

Recording what you find

note taking tips for research papers

Take full notes

Whether you take notes on cards, in a notebook, or on the computer, it's vital to record information accurately and completely. Otherwise, you won't be able to trust your own notes. Most importantly, distinguish between (1) direct quotation; (2) paraphrases and summaries of the text; and (3) your own thoughts. On a computer, you have many options for making these distinctions, such as parentheses, brackets, italic or bold text, etc.

Know when to quote, paraphrase, and summarize

  • Summarize when you only need to remember the main point of the passage, chapter, etc.
  • Paraphrase when you are able to able to clearly state a source's point or meaning in your own words.
  • Quote exactly when you need the author's exact words or authority as evidience to back up your claim. You may also want to be sure and use the author's exact wording, either because they stated their point so well, or because you want to refute that point and need to demonstrate you aren't misrepresenting the author's words.

Get the context right

Don't just record the author's words or ideas; be sure and capture the context and meaning that surrounds those ideas as well. It can be easy to take a short quote from an author that completely misrepresents his or her actual intentions if you fail to take the context into account. You should also be sure to note when the author is paraphrasing or summarizing another author's point of view--don't accidentally represent those ideas as the ideas of the author.

Example of reading notes

Here is an example of reading notes taken in Evernote, with citation and page numbers noted as well as quotation marks for direct quotes and brackets around the reader's own thoughts.

note taking tips for research papers

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How to Take Notes for Your Research Paper

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This article was co-authored by Alexander Ruiz, M.Ed. . Alexander Ruiz is an Educational Consultant and the Educational Director of Link Educational Institute, a tutoring business based in Claremont, California that provides customizable educational plans, subject and test prep tutoring, and college application consulting. With over a decade and a half of experience in the education industry, Alexander coaches students to increase their self-awareness and emotional intelligence while achieving skills and the goal of achieving skills and higher education. He holds a BA in Psychology from Florida International University and an MA in Education from Georgia Southern University. This article has been viewed 19,832 times.

As you proceed in giving shape to your research paper, you’ll likely find that you have a wide range of source materials to consult, read and take notes from. As a matter of fact, taking notes to prepare your paper, either to support and back up your argument, or to provide some kind of disagreement, is important, and so is the form of the notes you take. This how-to guide will help you to learn how to take good notes using three different techniques.

Using Direct Quotation

Step 1 Report what an author has said.

  • For instance, in doing research on the difference between poetry and prose, you might tend to quote a passage from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry.” Since the distinction is succinctly stated there, a paraphrase would perhaps be a bit longer than the original, and probably less interestingly stated. Material as such ought to be quoted verbatim (directly): A poem is the very image of life expressed in the eternal truth. There is this difference between a story and a poem, that a story is a catalogue of detached facts, which have no other connection than time, place, circumstance, cause and effect; the other is the creation of actions according to unchangeable forms of human nature, as existing in the mind of the Creator, which is itself the image of all other minds.

Using Paraphrasing

Step 1 Use paraphrasing to...

  • For example, in reading for a paper on economics, you frequently run across a number of tables of statistical data. Such tables should be quoted directly in entirety if all the items in them pertain to the specific topic you are exploring. There is no time to waste in copying parts of the tables that are not relevant to your study. A single line from the table may be all that is needed.

Using Summary/Commentary

Step 1 Write a summary/commentary.

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  • ↑ Alexander Ruiz, M.Ed.. Academic Tutor. Expert Interview. 18 June 2020.
  • Downing, S. (2011). On Course: Strategies for creating Success in College and in Life. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
  • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th edition ed.). (2009). New York: The Modern Language Association of America.
  • Murphy, E. E. (1985). Writing and Researching Term Papers and Reports: A New Guide for Students. Canada: Bantam Books, Inc.
  • Strunk, W. (1959). The Elements of Style. New York.
  • Van Blerkom, D. (2009). College Study Skills: Becoming a Strategic Learner. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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How to Take Notes

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How to Use Sources Effectively

Most articles in periodicals and some of the book sources you use, especially those from the children’s room at the library, are probably short enough that you can read them from beginning to end in a reasonable amount of time. Others, however, may be too long for you to do that, and some are likely to cover much more than just your topic. Use the table of contents and the index in a longer book to find the parts of the book that contain information on your topic. When you turn to those parts, skim them to make sure they contain information you can use. Feel free to skip parts that don’t relate to your questions, so you can get the information you need as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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Don’t—start reading a book and writing down information on a sheet of notebook paper. If you make this mistake, you’ll end up with a lot of disorganized scribbling that may be practically useless when you’re ready to outline your research paper and write a first draft. Some students who tried this had to cut up their notes into tiny strips, spread them out on the floor, and then tape the strips back together in order to put their information in an order that made sense. Other students couldn’t even do that—without going to a photocopier first—because they had written on both sides of the paper. To avoid that kind of trouble, use the tried-and-true method students have been using for years—take notes on index cards.

Taking Notes on Index Cards

As you begin reading your sources, use either 3″ x 5″ or 4″ x 6″ index cards to write down information you might use in your paper. The first thing to remember is: Write only one idea on each card. Even if you write only a few words on one card, don’t write anything about a new idea on that card. Begin a new card instead. Also, keep all your notes for one card only on that card. It’s fine to write on both the front and back of a card, but don’t carry the same note over to a second card. If you have that much to write, you probably have more than one idea.

After you complete a note card, write the source number of the book you used in the upper left corner of the card. Below the source number, write the exact number or numbers of the pages on which you found the information. In the upper right corner, write one or two words that describe the specific subject of the card. These words are like a headline that describes the main information on the card. Be as clear as possible because you will need these headlines later.

After you finish taking notes from a source, write a check mark on your source card as a reminder that you’ve gone through that source thoroughly and written down all the important information you found there. That way, you won’t wonder later whether you should go back and read that source again.

Taking Notes on Your Computer

Another way to take notes is on your computer. In order to use this method, you have to rely completely on sources that you can take home, unless you have a laptop computer that you can take with you to the library.

If you do choose to take notes on your computer, think of each entry on your screen as one in a pack of electronic note cards. Write your notes exactly as if you were using index cards. Be sure to leave space between each note so that they don’t run together and look confusing when you’re ready to use them. You might want to insert a page break between each “note card.”

When deciding whether to use note cards or a computer, remember one thing—high-tech is not always better. Many students find low-tech index cards easier to organize and use than computer notes that have to be moved around by cutting and pasting. In the end, you’re the one who knows best how you work, so the choice is up to you.

How to Take Effective Notes

Knowing the best format for notes is important, but knowing what to write on your cards or on your computer is essential. Strong notes are the backbone of a good research paper.

Not Too Much or Too Little

When researching, you’re likely to find a lot of interesting information that you never knew before. That’s great! You can never learn too much. But for now your goal is to find information you can use in your research paper. Giving in to the temptation to take notes on every detail you find in your research can lead to a huge volume of notes—many of which you won’t use at all. This can become difficult to manage at later stages, so limit yourself to information that really belongs in your paper. If you think a piece of information might be useful but you aren’t sure, ask yourself whether it helps answer one of your research questions.

Writing too much is one pitfall; writing too little is another. Consider this scenario: You’ve been working in the library for a couple of hours, and your hand grows tired from writing. You come to a fairly complicated passage about how to tell if a dog is angry, so you say to yourself, “I don’t have to write all this down. I’ll remember.” But you won’t remember—especially after all the reading and note taking you have been doing. If you find information you know you want to use later on, get it down. If you’re too tired, take a break or take off the rest of the day and return tomorrow when you’re fresh.

To Note or Not to Note: That is the Question

What if you come across an idea or piece of information that you’ve already found in another source? Should you write it down again? You don’t want to end up with a whole stack of cards with the same information on each one. On the other hand, knowing that more than one source agrees on a particular point is helpful. Here’s the solution: Simply add the number of the new source to the note card that already has the same piece of information written on it. Take notes on both sources. In your paper, you may want to come right out and say that sources disagree on this point. You may even want to support one opinion or the other—if you think you have a strong enough argument based on facts from your research.

Paraphrasing—Not Copying

Have you ever heard the word plagiarism? It means copying someone else’s words and claiming them as your own. It’s really a kind of stealing, and there are strict rules against it.

The trouble is many students plagiarize without meaning to do so. The problem starts at the note-taking stage. As a student takes notes, he or she may simply copy the exact words from a source. The student doesn’t put quotation marks around the words to show that they are someone else’s. When it comes time to draft the paper, the student doesn’t even remember that those words were copied from a source, and the words find their way into the draft and then into the final paper. Without intending to do so, that student has plagiarized, or stolen, another person’s words.

The way to avoid plagiarism is to paraphrase, or write down ideas in your own words rather than copy them exactly. Look again at the model note cards in this chapter, and notice that the words in the notes are not the same as the words from the sources. Some of the notes are not even written in complete sentences. Writing in incomplete sentences is one way to make sure you don’t copy—and it saves you time, energy, and space. When you write a draft of your research paper, of course, you will use complete sentences.

How to Organize Your Notes

Once you’ve used all your sources and taken all your notes, what do you have? You have a stack of cards (or if you’ve taken notes on a computer, screen after screen of entries) about a lot of stuff in no particular order. Now you need to organize your notes in order to turn them into the powerful tool that helps you outline and draft your research paper. Following are some ideas on how to do this, so get your thinking skills in gear to start doing the job for your own paper.

Organizing Note Cards

The beauty of using index cards to take notes is that you can move them around until they are in the order you want. You don’t have to go through complicated cutting-and-pasting procedures, as you would on your computer, and you can lay your cards out where you can see them all at once. One word of caution—work on a surface where your cards won’t fall on the floor while you’re organizing them.

Start by sorting all your cards with the same headlines into the same piles, since all of these note cards are about the same basic idea. You don’t have to worry about keeping notes from the same sources together because each card is marked with a number identifying its source.

Next, arrange the piles of cards so that the order the ideas appear in makes sense. Experts have named six basic types of order. One—or a combination of these—may work for you:

  • Chronological , or Time, Order covers events in the order in which they happened. This kind of order works best for papers that discuss historical events or tell about a person’s life.
  • Spatial  Order organizes your information by its place or position. This kind of order can work for papers about geography or about how to design something—a garden, for example.
  • Cause and Effect  discusses how one event or action leads to another. This kind of organization works well if your paper explains a scientific process or events in history.
  • Problem/Solution explains a problem and one or more ways in which it can be solved. You might use this type of organization for a paper about an environmental issue, such as global warming.
  • Compare and Contrast  discusses similarities and differences between people, things, events, or ideas.
  • Order of  Importance  explains an idea, starting with its most important aspects first and ending with the least important aspects—or the other way around.

After you determine your basic organization, arrange your piles accordingly. You’ll end up with three main piles—one for sounds, one for facial expressions, and one for body language. Go through each pile and put the individual cards in an order that makes sense. Don’t forget that you can move your cards around, trying out different organizations, until you are satisfied that one idea flows logically into another. Use a paper clip or rubber band to hold the piles together, and then stack them in the order you choose. Put a big rubber band around the whole stack so the cards stay in order.

Organizing Notes on Your Computer

If you’ve taken notes on a computer, organize them in much the same way you would organize index cards. The difference is that you use the cut-and-paste functions on your computer rather than moving cards around. The advantage is that you end up with something that’s already typed—something you can eventually turn into an outline without having to copy anything over. The disadvantage is that you may have more trouble moving computer notes around than note cards: You can’t lay your notes out and look at them all at once, and you may get confused when trying to find where information has moved within a long file on your computer screen.

However, be sure to back up your note cards on an external storage system of your choice. In addition, print hard copies as you work. This way, you won’t lose your material if your hard drive crashes or the file develops a glitch.

Developing a Working Bibliography

When you start your research, your instructor may ask you to prepare a working bibliography listing the sources you plan to use. Your working bibliography differs from your Works Cited page in its scope: your working bibliography is much larger. Your Works Cited page will include only those sources you have actually cited in your research paper.

To prepare a working bibliography, arrange your note cards in the order required by your documentation system (such as MLA and APA) and keyboard the entries following the correct form. If you have created your bibliography cards on the computer, you just have to sort them, usually into alphabetical order.

Developing an Annotated Bibliography

Some instructors may ask you to create an annotated bibliography as a middle step between your working bibliography and your Works Cited page. An annotated bibliography is the same as a working bibliography except that it includes comments about the sources. These notes enable your instructor to assess your progress. They also help you evaluate your information more easily. For example, you might note that some sources are difficult to find, hard to read, or especially useful.


note taking tips for research papers

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Smart Note-Taking for Research Paper Writing

How to organize research notes using the Zettelkasten Method when writing academic papers

Smart Note-Taking for Research Paper Writing

With plenty of note-taking tips and apps available, online and in paper form, it’s become extremely easy to take note of information, ideas, or thoughts. As simple as it is to write down an idea or jot down a quote, the skill of academic research and writing for a thesis paper is on another level entirely. And keeping a record or an archive of all of the information you need can quickly require a very organized system.

female studying taking notes checking calendar

The use of index cards seems old-fashioned considering that note-taking apps (psst! Hypernotes ) offer better functionality and are arguably more user-friendly. However, software is only there to help aid our individual workflow and thinking process. That’s why understanding and learning how to properly research, take notes and write academic papers is still a highly valuable skill.

Let’s Start Writing! But Where to Start…

Writing academic papers is a vital skill most students need to learn and practice. Academic papers are usually time-intensive pieces of written content that are a requirement throughout school or at University. Whether a topic is assigned or you have to choose your own, there’s little room for variation in how to begin.

Popular and purposeful in analyzing and evaluating the knowledge of the author as well as assessing if the learning objectives were met, research papers serve as information-packed content. Most of us may not end up working jobs in academic professions or be researchers at institutions, where writing research papers is also part of the job, but we often read such papers. 

Despite the fact that most research papers or dissertations aren’t often read in full, journalists, academics, and other professionals regularly use academic papers as a basis for further literary publications or blog articles. The standard of academic papers ensures the validity of the information and gives the content authority. 

There’s no-nonsense in research papers. To make sure to write convincing and correct content, the research stage is extremely important. And, naturally, when doing any kind of research, we take notes.

Why Take Notes?

There are particular standards defined for writing academic papers . In order to meet these standards, a specific amount of background information and researched literature is required. Taking notes helps keep track of read/consumed literary material as well as keeps a file of any information that may be of importance to the topic. 

The aim of writing isn’t merely to advertise fully formed opinions, but also serves the purpose of developing opinions worth sharing in the first place. 

What is Note-Taking?

home office work desk

Note-taking (sometimes written as notetaking or note-taking ) is the practice of recording information from different sources and platforms. For academic writing, note-taking is the process of obtaining and compiling information that answers and supports the research paper’s questions and topic. Notes can be in one of three forms: summary, paraphrase, or direct quotation.

Note-taking is an excellent process useful for anyone to turn individual thoughts and information into organized ideas ready to be communicated through writing. Notes are, however, only as valuable as the context. Since notes are also a byproduct of the information we consume daily, it’s important to categorize information, develop connections, and establish relationships between pieces of information. 

What Type of Notes Can I Take?

  • Explanation of complex theories
  • Background information on events or persons of interest
  • Definitions of terms
  • Quotations of significant value
  • Illustrations or graphics

Note-Taking 101

taking notes in notebook

Taking notes or doing research for academic papers shouldn’t be that difficult, considering we take notes all the time. Wrong. Note-taking for research papers isn’t the same as quickly noting down an interesting slogan or cool quote from a video, putting it on a sticky note, and slapping it onto your bedroom or office wall.

Note-taking for research papers requires focus and careful deliberation of which information is important to note down, keep on file, or use and reference in your own writing. Depending on the topic and requirements of your research paper from your University or institution, your notes might include explanations of complex theories, definitions, quotations, and graphics. 

Stages of Research Paper Writing

5 Stages of Writing

1. Preparation Stage

Before you start, it’s recommended to draft a plan or an outline of how you wish to begin preparing to write your research paper. Make note of the topic you will be writing on, as well as the stylistic and literary requirements for your paper.

2. Research Stage

In the research stage, finding good and useful literary material for background knowledge is vital. To find particular publications on a topic, you can use Google Scholar or access literary databases and institutions made available to you through your school, university, or institution. 

Make sure to write down the source location of the literary material you find. Always include the reference title, author, page number, and source destination. This saves you time when formatting your paper in the later stages and helps keep the information you collect organized and referenceable.

Hypernotes Zettelkasten Note-taking Reference

In the worst-case scenario, you’ll have to do a backward search to find the source of a quote you wrote down without reference to the original literary material. 

3. Writing Stage

When writing, an outline or paper structure is helpful to visually break up the piece into sections. Once you have defined the sections, you can begin writing and referencing the information you have collected in the research stage.

Clearly mark which text pieces and information where you relied on background knowledge, which texts are directly sourced, and which information you summarized or have written in your own words. This is where your paper starts to take shape.  

4. Draft Stage

After organizing all of your collected notes and starting to write your paper, you are already in the draft stage. In the draft stage, the background information collected and the text written in your own words come together. Every piece of information is structured by the subtopics and sections you defined in the previous stages. 

5. Final Stage

Success! Well… almost! In the final stage, you look over your whole paper and check for consistency and any irrelevancies. Read through the entire paper for clarity, grammatical errors , and peace of mind that you have included everything important. 

Make sure you use the correct formatting and referencing method requested by your University or institution for research papers. Don’t forget to save it and then send the paper on its way.

Best Practice Note-Taking Tips

  • Find relevant and authoritative literary material through the search bar of literary databases and institutions.
  • Practice citation repeatedly! Always keep a record of the reference book title, author, page number, and source location. At best, format the citation in the necessary format from the beginning. 
  • Organize your notes according to topic or reference to easily find the information again when in the writing stage. Work invested in the early stages eases the writing and editing process of the later stages.
  • Summarize research notes and write in your own words as much as possible. Cite direct quotes and clearly mark copied text in your notes to avoid plagiarism.  

Take Smart Notes

Hypernotes Zettelkasten reference

Taking smart notes isn’t as difficult as it seems. It’s simply a matter of principle, defined structure, and consistency. Whether you opt for a paper-based system or use a digital tool to write and organize your notes depends solely on your individual personality, needs, and workflow.

With various productivity apps promoting diverse techniques, a good note-taking system to take smart notes is the Zettelkasten Method . Invented by Niklas Luhmann, a german sociologist and researcher, the Zettelkasten Method is known as the smart note-taking method that popularized personalized knowledge management. 

As a strategic process for thinking and writing, the Zettelkasten Method helps you organize your knowledge while working, studying, or researching. Directly translated as a ‘note box’, Zettelkasten is simply a framework to help organize your ideas, thoughts, and information by relating pieces of knowledge and connecting pieces of information to each other.

Hypernotes is a note-taking app that can be used as a software-based Zettelkasten, with integrated features to make smart note-taking so much easier, such as auto-connecting related notes, and syncing to multiple devices. In each notebook, you can create an archive of your thoughts, ideas, and information. 

Hypernotes Zettelkasten Knowledge Graph Reference

Using the tag system to connect like-minded ideas and information to one another and letting Hypernotes do its thing with bi-directional linking, you’ll soon create a web of knowledge about anything you’ve ever taken note of. This feature is extremely helpful to navigate through the enormous amounts of information you’ve written down. Another benefit is that it assists you in categorizing and making connections between your ideas, thoughts, and saved information in a single notebook. Navigate through your notes, ideas, and knowledge easily.

Ready, Set, Go!

Writing academic papers is no simple task. Depending on the requirements, resources available, and your personal research and writing style, techniques, apps, or practice help keep you organized and increase your productivity. 

Whether you use a particular note-taking app like Hypernotes for your research paper writing or opt for a paper-based system, make sure you follow a particular structure. Repeat the steps that help you find the information you need quicker and allow you to reproduce or create knowledge naturally.

Images from NeONBRAND , hana_k and Surface via Unsplash 

A well-written piece is made up of authoritative sources and uses the art of connecting ideas, thoughts, and information together. Good luck to all students and professionals working on research paper writing! We hope these tips help you in organizing the information and aid your workflow in your writing process.

Cheers, Jessica and the Zenkit Team

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Note-taking and Handouts in The Digital Age

Most educators consider note-taking a critical component of formal classroom learning. Advancements in technology such as tablet computers, mobile applications, and recorded lectures are altering classroom dynamics and affecting the way students compose and review class notes. These tools may improve a student’s ability to take notes, but they also may hinder learning. In an era of dynamic technology developments, it is important for educators to routinely examine and evaluate influences on formal and informal learning environments. This paper discusses key background literature on student note-taking, identifies recent trends and potential implications of mobile technologies on classroom note-taking and student learning, and discusses future directions for note-taking in the context of digitally enabled lifelong learning.


Note-taking is an important aspect of formal classroom learning, 1 and students who take more course lecture notes in general are higher achievers. 2,3 However, a number of confounding variables affect student note-taking and, hence, student learning. These include instructional variables such as lecture structure, knowledge of forthcoming tests, perceived relevance of the lecture, and existence of and/or types of handouts provided. 4-6 Because of these variables, research is mixed with regard to the best types of note-taking and whether the “process” of taking notes is actually the critical factor. 3,5-7 Note-taking is a personalized task, and when individual differences with regard to note-taking ability also are considered, interpretation of the literature becomes even more complex. 8-10

In addition to these historically studied variables, emerging factors also affect student note-taking. The introduction of tablet computers, note-taking applications (apps), and other education technology in the classroom are altering the way students take notes and consume and process information during class. These technological advances add to the perplexity of how to best guide faculty members and students about note-taking.

In this paper, we briefly discuss key background literature on student note-taking, introduce recent trends and potential implications of mobile technologies on classroom note-taking and student learning, and offer alternative perspectives on handouts and note-taking.


The study of student note-taking spans years, covering a range of variables and perspectives. The ultimate goal of research on note-taking is to provide insight into what best aids and predicts student learning. Unfortunately, variables involved with note-taking and student learning prevents strong conclusions. In this section, we present primary variables pertaining to student note-taking, with an emphasis on factors relevant to today’s contemporary digital environments.

Presentation Styles

Considerable debate exists regarding which types of lecture presentation styles are best for student learning. While PowerPoint is one of the easiest, most ubiquitous presentation applications, not all academics agree it is best for classroom communication. 11 Some faculty members still prefer the “chalk-and-talk” method or today’s contemporary version (eg, document cameras and smart boards), in which important information is written in front of the classroom and ideas are expanded on verbally. This lecture format is touted as improving communication and encouraging good note-taking skills. 12 Each teaching platform has its own positives and negatives, with student format preference differing . 12-14 Each format alters how students take notes, and affects the speed and pace of doing so. Regardless of the format, students perceive handouts to follow in class and to use as a reference as beneficial. 14

Handout Styles

Handouts are useful aids for student note-taking and learning. 15 Thus, a key question educators struggle with is not whether to provide handouts, but how much information they should contain and in what format they should be. Some of the debate revolves around whether students learn better by transcribing lectures in their own words or by having instructor-prepared handouts so they can concentrate more on what is actually being said.

Concerns pertaining to instructor-provided notes as handouts primarily focus on issues of decreased student attendance and a reliance on external aids for learning. A student’s ability to translate classroom information and reproduce it in personally meaningful written notes is a critical part of the learning process. 16 Kiewra et al showed that students who recorded information during class performed better on examinations and had improved retention of information compared to those who did not. 17

When assessing different teaching modalities with pharmacy students learning cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), Khan at al found that students who performed best on a post-lecture quiz were those who were told they would not be given handouts and as a result, took their own notes (they were then presented with PowerPoint lecture notes after the lecture). The authors concluded the process of taking notes contributed to the learning process, helping those specific students perform better than their peers. 18 These studies mirror others in which the active process of taking notes appears to aid student learning. 12,17,19

The opposing viewpoint to providing limited handouts is that lecture note-taking is cognitively demanding and students may have difficulty recording all vital information points and/or may record them inaccurately. This may be a reflection of student note-taking ability and/or instructor presentation of material, such as inaudible or fast-paced speech. The issue is one of cognitive load, 20 in which student working memory may be insufficient at effectively listening to the lecture, processing the information, and then encoding it into a notes format, particularly if the pace is too fast or the material is too complex. 9

For instructional decisions regarding handouts, instructors must balance the value of students transcribing their own notes with the inherent limitations of cognitive load. One strategy is to provide students with only an outline of the lecture material as opposed to the entire set of instructor slides and/or notes. In this format, students are provided cognitive scaffolding from which they can engage in the process of listening and distill only the details. Moreover, students provided with outlines of notes outperform students taking notes on their own. 15,16

Prescribed Note-taking Methods

Although slightly beyond the scope of this paper, in addition to the effect of instructor presentation and handout styles on note-taking, there is a body of research regarding specific standardized student note-taking strategies. While more popular decades ago when lectures were the dominant form of content delivery, when instructor handouts were less prevalent, and when information memorization was emphasized, a number of note-taking methods have been developed in order to guide students toward the most effective ways of recording lecture material. These methods provide specific instructions on how to record lecture notes and include the Formal Outline Procedure, the Cornell Method, the Bartush Active Method, and the Verbatim Split Method. 21,22

Training students in systematic note-taking approaches can be helpful to students in encoding and studying large amounts of learning content. Despite their success, these methods are largely ignored as perspectives regarding content delivery are shifting and classroom dynamics changing. Little research has been conducted on these methods in recent years, but may once again have potential merit in the context of flipped classroom formats, in which students may need to take notes on out-of-class recorded lectures in preparation for active-learning-based, in-class activities. 23


The introduction of mobile computing devices in classrooms ushered in a new set of note-taking issues. Speed, legibility, and searchability are 3 positive attributes of digital note-taking. 8 Because of these advantages, some students may prefer digital note-taking vs traditional handwritten notes. However, changes wrought from these advances in technology are not all positive.

Possibly the biggest concern with student use of laptops in class is computer-aided distraction. 24 The lure of multi-tasking on those devices can significantly hinder student comprehension of classroom lectures. Other concerns arise in the efficacy of typed notes. Muller and Oppenheimer concluded that students who took notes on a laptop did not remember conceptual material as well as those who took handwritten notes, though they performed equally well when questioned about factual information. 25 One hypothesis for this difference is the inclination for those who type their notes on a laptop to include longer notes and to take down information verbatim rather than through rephrasing. Other studies support these findings; Piolat et al showed students taking handwritten notes demonstrated better performance than students who typed digital notes on both factual and conceptual questions. 20 As a result, Fink reported banning all forms of digital note-taking, citing that, without the digital devices, students remained attentive and performed well in the course. 26

Introduction of Tablet Computers

Tablet computers have further hastened the transition toward digital note-taking. One benefit of tablets for note-taking is the ability to hand write notes, add drawings, and highlight text while still retaining the digital format. Given the complex and diagram-driven content of courses in the pharmacy curriculum, a digital format that allows typing and drawing can be advantageous. In addition, tablet computers may reduce or eliminate the cost of printing, reduce the amount of paper one has to carry, decrease the need to transport a heavier and more cumbersome laptop, and support the organization of notes. 27

Although little research exists on student use of tablets for learning, Mang and Wardley indicated that students using tablets are much less likely to access distractions such as e-mail, Facebook, messengers, or YouTube during class compared to those using a laptop. 27 Tablet computers are also appealing from an institutional perspective because they provide a relatively inexpensive way to incorporate digital-based learning. Several universities, most notably Notre Dame, Pepperdine, and Stanford, have started programmatic efforts designed specifically to encourage iPad use in classrooms. 28

Note-taking applications

Coinciding with the introduction of tablets and smartphones was the development of mobile applications (apps), which provide easy access to a variety of functions. Literature concerning the use of mobile or tablet application in the classroom is sparse. Most information available comes from technology-centered magazines or online app reviews. The mobile app market changes rapidly, and Internet searches for note-taking/study apps reveal considerable options in functionality and price.

Informal discussions with students revealed that personal choices for app use and/or selection depend largely on classmate recommendations. Recommendations of mobile apps to aid in student success have also been presented at pharmacy student forums. Recommendations, based on student utility and reviews, included StudyBlue Flashcards (a flashcard application for studying), Evernote Peek (a note-taking and flashcard style app), Dropbox (an application used for document storage and collaboration) and note-taking applications Evernote, Notability, and Penultimate. 29

Based on research regarding cognitive functions of note-taking, a variety of factors make note-taking apps appealing. In order for learning apps to be effective, they must accommodate an active note-taking process and enable efficient review of those notes. 30 An application that simply allows students to copy and paste prewritten notes without including their own definitions or elaborations is much less effective than one that encourages personally written language. While verbatim notes may be more accurate, the benefit of “process” is absent, and therefore, lessens the effects of the learning experience. Apps that permit students to draw upon, edit, summarize, and highlight handouts in a manner that allows cognitive involvement in the note-taking process are most beneficial to learning. 30

Formal use of apps for note-taking and learning is in its infancy. One example of an app-based initiative comes from Abilene Christian Academy, which issues each of its students an iPod Touch or iPhone to use during their education. 31 The primary focus of using these devices are the apps available to enhance student learning. Chemistry professors find apps particularly useful, as they allow students to visualize complex molecules and identify chemicals and their names. 31 In addition to an enhanced visual and tactile learning process, apps also can improve note-taking by allowing more complex images and other media to be integrated into students’ written guides. Use of these devices in the classroom helps train students to use a variety of applications and tools crucial for careers in the digital age. Moreover, tablet and smartphone apps are now common in the clinical environment, 32 with some large medical centers advocating the use of apps and supplying facility-owned iPads so its staff can securely view electronic health records. 33 Studies of medical providers show that up to 85% of its study population (surgeons, fellows, and residents) own and use a smartphone in practice; more than half of those studied use applications in their daily practice. 34 Use of such apps has vastly improved the ability for health care providers to access credible information, view patient charts, and complete all functions in a timely manner. 32 Some apps have been evaluated and recommended for use in practice; the scope of these apps range from providing information about medications (eg, PEPID, Lexicomp, Epocrates), to time management and productivity (eg, Wunderlist, Dropbox, GoodReader). 35

Most faculty members establish their own philosophies regarding handouts and note-taking. However, it may be time to consider new student-centered approaches that provide learners with the best and most efficient way of learning while in the classroom and after they graduate. Delivery style and methods can affect how students receive, process, and record notes. Our use of technology in the classroom (ie, PowerPoint slides) may be below its potential, and faculty members may want to consider uses of instructional technology beyond efficient content delivery.

Observations of students in classrooms reveal varyious note-taking strategies, some of which involve students serving their own learning needs by modifying what faculty members give them. There is much to learn about student note-taking behaviors. The caveat is that instructors should not rely solely on learner preferences pertaining to handouts and/or note-taking to guide decision-making. Considerable research in the area of metacognition revealed that some individuals are unable to accurately assess their own level of comprehension or skill guiding their preferences. While these individuals may perceive a certain style or method as best for them, in reality those may be false perceptions because of an incorrect assessment of their own abilities. 36

As educators continue to migrate away from traditional content-delivery modalities in classrooms toward more student-centered approaches of using face-to-face time for in-depth thinking, engaging, and applying information, classroom note-taking may change. Student accountability for managing their own learning processes may increase, thereby altering student approaches to studying. Lecture transcription may become less of an issue as instructors utilize technology to create offline lessons, recorded lectures, e-learning materials, etc.

Because digital learning materials are available at will, the need to further document them will be reduced. Some students may choose to forego notes altogether, perceiving that e-learning materials replace any need for taking notes. However, those students may need instruction regarding the cognitive benefits of note-taking, which extend beyond mere access to information for study purposes. Other students may continue recording notes as they always have, believing (correctly or incorrectly) that approach benefits them. Still others may adopt different technology-enabled methods. In courses utilizing a flipped classroom approach or in ones that emphasize active learning, it is likely that students will discover new apps and platforms that accommodate their needs before faculty members do. Educators, however, have a leadership role in shaping student practices that lead to their development as a professional. The difficult question is, thus, how educators can guide students regarding note-taking.

Existing research on student note-taking does provide a foundation, but this is an age in which some aspects of the former paradigm no longer apply. Student note-taking is evolving because a myriad of technological advances are triggering an information explosion, changing how information is managed and, to some degree, changing teaching practices. Therefore, the evolution toward a new, evidence-based comprehension of student note-taking in digital and mobile environments is important. Without an understanding of these tools and the socio-cognitive processes associated with them, we risk underutilizing powerful tools and/or making recommendations that students may not follow. One consideration is whether there are specific digital tools that aid student note-taking and learning and, if so, how instructors can best accommodate those tools. In a rapidly changing, mobile-technology environment, this question requires constant vigilance.

Another consideration is how an approach to handouts affects student note-taking, attention and, ultimately, learning retention. This instructional consideration often is unintentionally ignored. Anecdotally, some instructors comment that students do not pay attention in class and resort to memorizing copies of the PowerPoint slides. Conversely, if instructors do not provide handouts, students then complain about the lack of handouts and spend the entire class transcribing everything. In each of these cases, instructor decisions may strongly influence respective student actions. Variables such as teaching methods, assessment methods, instructor persona, and student culture contribute to these student behaviors, but a broad-based discussion of these is beyond the scope of this paper.

If handouts are the lone variable, however, one consideration consistent with research is to furnish “skeletal” notes/outlines. This type of handout provides students with a cognitive scaffolding, alleviating the need to transcribe everything, yet still forcing them to pay attention and engage in the process of note-taking. An additional consideration, referring back to our need for research on digital note-taking tools, is to provide notes in a format conducive to student manipulation on digital devices.

The handout format types most likely used by faculty members (eg, PowerPoint slides, Microsoft Word documents, and pdf formats) all have different advantages and limitations, which may indirectly contribute to different note-taking styles and methods. The style, breadth, depth, and visual layout of student notes may vary depending on whether students use paper, laptops, or tablets. This is one of the reasons new research is essential, particularly in light of recent findings regarding cognitive differences between typing and handwriting. 25

Finally, as digital environments increasingly affect higher education, we should consider the evolving interplay between note-taking, information management, and lifelong learning. The first decades of the digital age has introduced society to a variety of paradigm shifts including how we view the concepts of information storage and retrieval. Educators may need to rethink what it means to take notes and how those notes carry forward into future careers.

In a paper-based society, it was challenging, but not impossible, for students to carry all their notes with them. In addition, this made it potentially more challenging to sort through notes to review a particular concept. Now, not only can learning materials be stored on a phone or tablet, but students can find a phrase or concept in seconds. Cognitive and conceptual links can be made within and across courses. Admittedly, this is a drastic shift in thinking, but new ways of teaching (eg, flipped classrooms), new focal points for learning (eg, personal lifelong learning), and new ways of storing and accessing information (eg, mobile computing devices and apps) provide a foundation from which we can explore different models for note-taking and handouts.

Although handouts and notes are a seemingly minor point in the teaching process, we must still take an evidence-based approach to guide teaching and learning practices in this regard. While neither faculty members nor students appear to prefer one format over another, the best handouts allow ample space for students to reformat information into their own words and may even be somewhat “sparse” to encourage active listening and note-taking. Yet, the purpose of and types of note-taking may be evolving. Note-taking should not become an art lost to the ages of recorded class lectures and pre-filled handouts. Without the valuable skills of listening and recording, students might fail to become “competent practitioners (who are able to) listen, read, organize, integrate, and utilize information in the care of their patients.” 37 Students should use the note-taking medium that best engages their willingness and ability to learn. 38 Learners must discover the delicate balance of practical use, ease, and efficacy for their note-taking strategies. In this technology-literate society and rapidly-changing learning environments, faculty members need to guide students toward managing their current and future learning needs. Research regarding learning outcomes with today’s digital note-taking tools is needed, particularly as the possible existence of a physio-cognitive connection between writing and learning is considered. This research could help provide evidence-based recommendations to students and instructors regarding which formats and techniques work best for learning.

7 Note-Taking Tips to Make Studying a Breeze

Matt Ellis

People with photographic memories can remember every word from a lecture or book, but the rest of us can benefit from taking notes! Note-taking is a natural and quite effective method of learning where you write down only the most important parts of a lesson or reading to review later. But the value you receive from note-taking is only as good as the notes themselves. 

Whether you’re in high school, college , or grad school, we thought we’d share some tips on how to improve your own note-taking skills. Look below for better and more efficient ways you can take notes this semester. 

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Why take notes?

It’s almost impossible to remember everything you read or hear from your lessons—in fact, we forget 33% of what we don’t review within twenty-four hours. That’s why students almost always take notes; by writing down the essentials of a lesson during class or of a reading assignment, you can review the notes later to study, piece together the complicated parts you didn’t understand the first time, and reinforce your learning. 

The more complex a lesson or topic, the more useful your notes are. For higher learning, like graduate school or when writing a thesis paper , you won’t get far without note-taking. Moreover, the act of writing information down helps you remember and recall it later . The combination of motor skills, touch sensation, visual cues, and extra time all facilitate memory formation more than just by listening or reading alone. 

Once you have the notes, it’s up to you how you use them. We recommend reviewing them periodically until you internalize the information, but if you have a busy schedule, you can save them until it’s time to study for a test or write a research paper . 

Handwritten vs. digital note-taking

Since computers became both common and portable, there’s a big debate about note-taking by hand vs. digitally on a laptop, tablet, or phone. Although research suggests taking notes by hand improves memory more than with a digital device, they each have their unique strengths that perform better in certain situations. 

Pros of note-taking by hand:

  • memory formation
  • sketching or creating diagrams as visual aids

Pros of note-taking via digital device: 

  • physical convenience (fewer hand cramps)
  • copying and sharing notes with others

Different methods of note-taking

Your notes are for your own personal use, so there’s no need to be formal about them—you won’t have to submit them as academic writing . On the other hand, the more organized and consistent they are, the more convenient they become. 

With that in mind, there are a few different methods of note-taking for certain types of people or situations. We list five of the most common ones below so you can see if any options appeal to you. 

Outlining in note-taking—not to be confused with outlining as part of the writing process —is one of the simplest and most common ways to take notes. Points and keywords are written down in a hierarchical structure, typically in the same chronological order as they were discussed in the lesson. 

Note-taking outlines are divided by main topics, subtopics, individual points, and subpoints, with room for examples and quotes as needed. This method works especially well with digital word processors, since you can also go back and add new points later. 

Typically, outlined notes follow a structure of Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numerals, and lowercase letters (in that order), as in this example: 

I. Main topic 1

A. Subtopic 1

 1. Point 1

a. Subpoint 1 or example

b. Subpoint 2 or example

 2. Point 2 

B. Subtopic 2

II. Main topic 2

Charting is a particular type of note-taking that works best when multiple topics are discussed simultaneously, as with comparisons, or when one topic is dissected into multiple parts (i.e., pros/cons). 

Essentially, you just divide your page into two or more columns, with each column assigned to a single topic. Every time a pertinent fact is mentioned for one of the topics, jot down a note in the corresponding column. 

Charting helps keep your notes organized during lessons that go back and forth between topics rapidly. However, in lessons where only one topic is discussed at a time, this method will only slow you down. 

For visual thinkers, it might help to take notes using a mind map, or simply “mapping.” This note-taking technique utilizes branching graphs—like spider diagrams—to organize information in a way that’s easy to group and comprehend. 

Mapping has its problems, especially when you have to guess how much space on your paper the information will take up. It’s best used when you’re having trouble organizing your own thoughts; seeing ideas linked visually can help you understand their connections. 

For this reason, you might want to take notes in a more conventional way during the lesson, and then create a mind map afterwards from your notes to assist in studying. 

A sample of a mind map for "Aspirin and other Salicylates." It shows "toxicity," "drug interations," and "adverse effects" in a branching word tree that looks similar to a sports tournament bracket.

An example of a mind map ( source )

Cornell Notes system

Popularized by Cornell University professor Walter Pauk, the Cornell Notes system, also called the Cornell method, aims to make note-taking faster and more efficient by allocating dedicated space on a page for different types of information. 

Basically, you divide your page into two columns: the recall column (left) accounts for one-third of your page, and the note column (right) accounts for two-thirds of the same page. In the recall column, you write the main topics, keywords, or questions, with supporting notes written directly across in the notes column. 

At the bottom of the page, five to seven lines are reserved for a summary, where after the lesson or reading you reiterate the main points of the entire class, chapter, etc. 

An example of the Cornell Notes system on generic notebook paper. "Name" and "subject" are in the upper-left corner; "date" and "page #" are in the upper-right corner; "summary" is at the bottom. The middle of the page is bisected by a line about one-third from the left; "recall column" is on the left side of the line and "notes column" is on the right.

Cornell Notes in action ( source )

The SQ4R method of note-taking is exclusively for note-taking while reading, so it won’t be of much use in a classroom. The name stands for the steps of the process: 

  • Survey : Take about three to five minutes to skim or “survey” the reading, writing down all the major headings, subheadings, topics, and other key points. 
  • Questions: Based on what you saw while surveying, write down any broad questions you have about the text. 
  • Read: Now, actually read the text, section by section, keeping an eye out for the answers to your questions from the previous step. 
  • Recite: After each section, write down all major ideas, keywords, and concepts—in other words, take notes . Again, answer the questions you posed in the second step as best you can. 
  • Relate: As a trick to enhance memorization, try to develop personal connections to what you just read. Can you relate to any of the topics discussed? Does the information remind you of anything in your own life? 
  • Review: When you’re finished, reread your notes to increase retention and help with studying. 

This method was originally called SQ3R. The newest R, relate , was added subsequently after research showed a connection between personalizing information and retaining it. 

7 advanced tips for note-taking

1 add dates and topics at the top .

Remembering which topics were discussed during which classes or chapters can get confusing, especially when you’re taking multiple courses at once. To stay organized, write the date and topic at the top of each new note-taking session. That’ll make it easier to find what you’re looking for later. 

2 Prioritize the speaker or text 

We all want our notes to be as thorough as possible, but don’t ignore the teacher or text because you’re too focused on note-taking. Always keep the speaker or reading at the center of your attention, and take notes only to complement your direct learning, not supplant it. Prioritizing notes over the lesson is putting the cart before the horse. 

3 Prepare beforehand

There’s a lot going through your mind in the middle of class or during a reading session. Minimize the amount of distractions in your head by handling some of the busy work beforehand. This includes any reading or preparatory assignments that let you know what to expect during a lecture, as well as reviewing your previous notes so you don’t accidentally write the same thing twice. 

4 Review notes while they’re fresh

A lot of people save their notes until study time, but it helps to review them once or twice shortly after they’re written. For one thing, this greatly improves memory retention and imprinting the information. Other benefits are to see if you missed anything, or to clarify a typo or word written sloppily. If you catch these mistakes too late, you may not remember what you were trying to say. 

5 Pay attention for signals in lecture/reading

Certain words or phrases mentioned by a lecturer or book can signal the information will be important, as well as certain parts of the lesson like the beginning and end. If you can recognize these cues, you can be ready to take notes on what follows. Here are some examples of signals:

  • introducing lists (“There are three reasons this occurs…”)
  • repetition of the same phrase
  • “for example . . .”
  • “as a result . . .”

6  Identify what is and is not worth writing down

The advantage of note-taking is that it summarizes what you learned for quick reference. If your notes are just as long and detailed as the source material, they’re not exactly helpful. 

Write down only what is essential, and leave out the rest. If you waste time writing down every tidbit or fact, not only will that distract from the actual lesson but also you won’t be able to differentiate what’s significant and what’s extra later. Personal anecdotes and off-topic tangents are good examples of when you don’t need to take notes. 

7 Use shorthand if needed

Shorthand is just a fancy word for using abbreviations and other time-saving writing tricks. We use them all the time online and when texting so we can write more quickly, and that also applies to note-taking. 

In particular, you can use “&” for and , “bc” for because and “ex.” for example , just to name a few. Feel free to invent your own shorthand for words that you personally use a lot—just don’t forget what they stand for! 

note taking tips for research papers

Note-taking: A Research Roundup

September 9, 2018

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Let’s talk about note-taking. Every day, in classrooms all over the world, students are taking notes. I have my own half-baked ideas about what makes one approach better than another, and I’m sure you do too. But if we’re going to call ourselves professionals, we need to know what the research says, yes?

So I’ve combed through about three decades’ worth of research, and I’m going to tell you what it says about best practices in note-taking. Although this is not an exhaustive summary, it hits on some of the most frequently debated questions on the subject.

This information is going to be useful for any subject area—I found some really good stuff that would be especially useful for STEM teachers or anyone who does heavy work with calculations, diagrams, and other technical illustrations. Of course, there’s plenty here for teachers of social studies, English, and the humanities as well, so everyone sit tight because you’ll probably come away with something you can apply to your classroom.

First, Let’s Talk About Lectures

When we think about note-taking, it’s natural to assume a context of lecture-based lessons. And yes, that is one common scenario when a student is likely to take notes. But other learning experiences also lend themselves to note-taking: Watching videos in a flipped or blended environment, reading assigned textbook chapters or handouts, doing research for a project, and going on field trips can all be opportunities for taking notes.

So instead of referring to lectures in this overview, I’ll just talk about learning experiences or intake sessions—times when students are absorbing content or skills through some sort of medium, as opposed to purely applying that content or synthesizing it into some kind of product. Even in student-centered, project-driven classrooms where students pursue their own authentic tasks like the Apollo School , or in more traditional classrooms that set aside time for Genius Hour projects, students need to gather, encode, and store information, so note-taking would still be a fit.

What the Research Says About Note-Taking

1. note-taking matters..

Whether it’s taking notes from lectures (Kiewra, 2002) or from reading (Rahmani & Sadeghi, 2011; Chang & Ku, 2014), note-taking has been shown to improve student learning. In other words, if we want our students to remember more of what they learn in our classes, it’s better to have them take notes than it is to not have them take notes.

The thinking behind this is that note-taking requires effort. Rather than passively taking information in, the act of encoding the information into words or pictures forms new pathways in the brain, which stores it more firmly in long-term memory. On top of that, having the information stored in a new place gives students the opportunity to revisit it later and reinforce the learning that happened the first time around.

So if you’re not currently having students take notes in your class, consider adding note-taking to your regular classroom routine. With that said, a number of other factors can influence the potency of a student’s note-taking, and that is what these other points will address.

2. More is better.

Although students are often encouraged to keep notes brief, it turns out that in general, the more notes students take, the more information they tend to remember later. The quantity of notes is directly related to how much information students retain (Nye, Crooks, Powley, & Tripp, 1984).

This would be useful to share with students. If they know that more complete notes will result in better learning, they may be more likely to record additional information in their notes, rather than striving for brevity.

Obviously, some students are going to be faster note-takers than others, and this will allow them to take more complete notes. But you can do quite a bit to help all students get more information into their notes, regardless of their natural speed, and that’s what we’ll talk about next.

3. Explicitly teaching note-taking strategies can make a difference.

Although some students seem to have an intuitive sense for what notes to record, for everyone else, getting trained in specific note-taking strategies can significantly improve the quality of notes and the amount of material they remember later. (Boyle, 2013; Rahmani & Sadeghi, 2011; Robin, Foxx, Martello, & Archable, 1977). This is especially true for students with learning disabilities.

One frequently used note-taking system is Cornell Notes . This approach has been around for decades, and the format provides a simple way to take “live” notes in class and condense and review them later.

4. Adding visuals boosts the power of notes.

Compared with writing alone, adding drawings to notes to represent concepts, terms, and relationships has a significant effect on memory and learning (Wammes, Meade, & Fernandes, 2016).

The growing popularity of sketchnoting in recent years suggests that teachers are well on their way to taking advantage of this research.

This video combines sketchnoting with Cornell Notes, and it’s an approach I think is definitely worth considering.

To explore sketchnoting more deeply, check out this list of sketchnoting resources compiled by celebrated education sketchnote artist Sylvia Duckworth .

5. Revision, collaboration, and pausing boosts the power of notes.

When students are given the opportunity to revise, add to, or rewrite their notes, they tend to retain more information. And when that revision happens during deliberate pauses in a lecture or other learning experience, students remember the information better and take better notes than if the revision happens after the learning experience is over. Finally, if students collaborate on this revision with partners, they record even more complete notes and score higher on post-tests (Luo, Kiewra, & Samuelson, 2016).

With this in mind, it would be a good idea to plan breaks in lectures, videos, or independent reading periods to allow students to look over, add to, and revise their notes, ideally with a partner or small group. This partner work could happen after students have had time to revise their notes alone, or students might be given access to classmates for the duration of the pause.

6. Scaffolding increases retention.

Teachers can build scaffolds into their instruction to ensure that students take better notes. One very effective type of scaffold is guided notes (also called skeleton or skeletal notes). With guided notes, the instructor provides some type of outline of the material to be covered, but with space left for students to complete key information. This strategy has been shown to substantially increase student achievement across all grade levels (elementary through college) and with students who present with various disabilities (Haydon, Mancil, Kroeger, McLeskey, & Lin, 2011).

As instructors experiment with guided notes, certain features show a lot of promise. One that I found incredibly interesting was a style developed by engineering professor Susan Reynolds to accompany her lectures: The notes combine typed information, handwritten content, and graphics, but still leave room for student notes and working out example problems.

Diagrams are pre-drawn, but some key numbers are left out for students to fill in during the lecture. These notes consolidate all the technical material for a lecture into a single document, and the information is organized to align with the lecture. The more I study these notes, the more I see how useful they are, and how well they balance the efficiency offered by guided notes with the need for students to actively participate in the encoding process.

note taking tips for research papers

Reynolds’ students have had strong positive reactions to this style of notes and consistently attribute the notes as a key factor in their engagement and learning in the course (Reynolds & Tackie, 2016).

While teachers should experiment with different styles, the take-away here is that if you want students to get the most out of a learning experience, provide them with some form of partially completed notes.

In the meantime, you can add another layer of scaffolding by simply adding more verbal cues to your learning experiences (Kiewra, 2002). Research shows that simply saying things like, “This is an important point,” or “Be sure to add this to your notes,” instructors can ensure that students include key ideas in their notes. Providing written cues on the board or a slideshow can also help students structure their notes and decide what information to include.

7. Providing instructor notes improves learning.

In an article I wrote a few years ago, I denounced instructor-prepared notes as an ineffective method for teaching , primarily because encoding this information required no effort from students and therefore made the learning too passive.

Although I stand by the assertion that we should avoid simply supplying students with notes, I need to refine the message: Research has shown that when we give students complete, well-written, instructor-prepared notes to review after they take their own notes, they learn significantly more than with their own notes alone (Kiewra, 1985).

If we combine this strategy with student revision, collaboration, and pausing to improve note-taking and learning—in other words, having students pause during an intake session to collaboratively revise their notes, then let them review instructor notes at the end—we can give our students an incredibly powerful learning experience.

One concern is that providing notes might make students more passive about taking their own notes during the learning experience. Here are some suggestions for addressing that:

  • Assigning a small grade for student notes would likely compel most students to do them, but this could distort the validity of a grade , as we discussed in another post.
  • It would probably be more effective to simply build note-taking into the class activities. For example, if students are encouraged to take notes, and then they are given a pause every few minutes to compare and revise notes, it would be pretty awkward for them to turn to a partner and have nothing to contribute.
  • Sharing the research with students that those taking notes then revising them with instructor notes has greater impact than instructor notes alone might push students to take more notes.
  • Allowing students to choose a note-taking format that works best for them would also boost student motivation for taking the notes.

8. Handwritten notes may be more powerful than digital notes, but digital note-taking can be fine-tuned.

Studies have shown that students who take notes by hand learn more than those who take notes on a laptop (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014; Carter, Greenberg, & Walker, 2017).

This research confirms what a number of educators suspect about the negative effects of digital devices in the classroom, and some have taken it to mean they should definitely ban laptops from their lectures (Dynarski, 2017). Others argue that prohibiting laptop use robs students of the opportunity to develop metacognitive awareness of their own levels of distraction and make the appropriate adjustments (Holland, 2017).

Because technology is always changing, and because as a species, we are still adjusting to these new formats, I would hesitate to ban laptops from the classroom. Here’s why:

  • Research on this topic is still pretty young: Some researchers have found no significant difference in performance between paper-based and digital note-takers (Artz, Johnson, Robson, & Taengnoi, 2017). My guess is that more research will pile up and get more refined, so we should take a measured approach for the time being.
  • Other researchers are looking at ways to reduce some of the problems associated with digital note-taking, like distraction: One study found that while doing online research, students who used matrix-style notes and were given time limits were much less likely to become distracted by other online material than students without those conditions (Wu, & Xie, 2018).
  • I believe we serve our students better by helping them find a note-taking system that works best for them. With that in mind, I would be more likely to have students experiment with hand-written and digital notes, share the research with them, and give them opportunities to reflect on and measure their results.

See What Other Teachers are Doing

To learn more about what other teachers have found to be most effective note-taking methods, I put the call out on Twitter, asking teachers to share what works for them. You can browse that conversation here .

Artz, B., Johnson, M., Robson, D., & Taengnoi, S. (2017). Note-taking in the digital age: Evidence from classroom random control trials. http://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3036455

Boyle, J. R. (2013). Strategic note-taking for inclusive middle school science classrooms. Remedial and Special Education, 34 (2), 78-90. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0741932511410862

Carter, S. P., Greenberg, K., & Walker, M. S. (2017). The impact of computer usage on academic performance: Evidence from a randomized trial at the United States Military Academy. Economics of Education Review, 56, 118-132. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2016.12.005

Chang, W., & Ku, Y. (2014). The effects of note-taking skills instruction on elementary students’ reading. The Journal of Educational Research, 108 (4), 278–291. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220671.2014.886175

Dynarski, S. (2017). For Note Taking, Low-Tech is Often Best. Retrieved from https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/17/08/note-taking-low-tech-often-best

Haydon, T., Mancil, G.R.,  Kroeger, S.D., McLeskey, J., & Lin, W.J. (2011). A review of the effectiveness of guided notes for students who struggle learning academic content. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 55 (4), 226-231. http://doi.org/10.1080/1045988X.2010.548415

Holland, B. (2017). Note taking editorials – groundhog day all over again. Retrieved from http://brholland.com/note-taking-editorials-groundhog-day-all-over-again/

Kiewra, K.A. (1985). Providing the instructor’s notes: an effective addition to student notetaking. Educational Psychologist, 20 (1), 33-39. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15326985ep2001_5

Kiewra, K.A. (2002). How classroom teachers can help students learn and teach them how to learn. Theory into Practice, 41 (2), 71-80. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip4102_3

Luo, L., Kiewra, K.A. & Samuelson, L. (2016). Revising lecture notes: how revision, pauses, and partners affect note taking and achievement. Instructional Science, 44 (1). 45-67. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11251-016-9370-4

Mueller, P.A., & Oppenheimer, D.M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25 (6), 1159-1168. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797614524581

Nye, P.A., Crooks, T.J., Powley, M., & Tripp, G. (1984). Student note-taking related to university examination performance. Higher Education, 13 (1), 85-97. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00136532

Rahmani, M., & Sadeghi, K. (2011). Effects of note-taking training on reading comprehension and recall. The Reading Matrix, 11 (2). Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/85a8/f016516e61de663ac9413d9bec58fa07bccd.pdf

Reynolds, S.M., & Tackie, R.N. (2016). A novel approach to skeleton-note instruction in large engineering courses: Unified and concise handouts that are fun and colorful. American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, LA, June 26-29, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.asee.org/public/conferences/64/papers/15115/view

Robin, A., Foxx, R. M., Martello, J., & Archable, C. (1977). Teaching note-taking skills to underachieving college students. The Journal of Educational Research, 71 (2), 81-85. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220671.1977.10885042

Wammes, J.D., Meade, M.E., & Fernandes, M.A. (2016). The drawing effect: Evidence for reliable and robust memory benefits in free recall. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 69 (9). http://doi.org/10.1080/17470218.2015.1094494

Wu, J. Y., & Xie, C. (2018). Using time pressure and note-taking to prevent digital distraction behavior and enhance online search performance: Perspectives from the load theory of attention and cognitive control. Computers in Human Behavior, 88, 244-254.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.07.008

What to Read Next

note taking tips for research papers

Categories: Instruction , Learning Theory , Podcast

Tags: learning & memory , teaching strategies


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What grade should note taking begin? Middle school? Upper elementary? 🤔🤔

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I have the same question. I teach gr 3 and am trying to think of ways to incorporate this into our class.

And THANK-YOU for consolidating all the research for us here! This website is my go-to source for research-backed, teaching best-practice info.

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I’ve done some of this in grade 3! For example, we watched a video and I asked them to jot down what they noticed. We’d recently done some mind mapping so I suggested they do it in that format. Then I asked them to share what they had noticed and we made a mind map together, with students adding anything they had missed (wherever they felt it fit best).

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Hi, Joyous! I love that you’re asking this question. What about 1st grade? Kids love to write and doodle, right? As a former 1st grade teacher, all throughout the day, I provided tons of opportunities for kids to record their thinking. They were writing, doodling, drawing arrows, labeling, captioning … doing all that stuff that we want them to do when showing understanding. Of course, this came with a lot of scaffolding, modeling, and direct teaching. I think sketchnoting is perhaps the most natural way to get kids started. Here’s a specific activity I did at the end of the year that some might say was a science lesson, others a reading lesson, and others a writing lesson. I say it was all that and more. My real intention was to teach a learning process: 1. Listen to just get familiar with the content. 2. Listen again, this time really visualizing the content. Draw, write, label what you understand. 3. Listen again and fix or change. The tool we used was a Scholastic News issue that happened to coincide with our weather unit. (I read it aloud, one section at a time.) Here’s a link to 4 samples of student work. In case you’re wondering, one of the samples is from an ELL student, another from a struggling student and another from a gifted student. Several note-taking strategies were part of this lesson: sketchnoting, revision, pausing, scaffolding, and shout-outs, which I considered a form of collaboration. While kids were sketching and revising, I saw some really neat things happening, that I’d just shout out. For example, “Hey, if anybody’s interested, I’m noticing Johnny is numbering the different stages. See if that’s something that will work for you.” I’ll be honest. I did this lesson 3 years ago and at the time, I didn’t even think of it as notetaking. Then Jenn’s post helped me realize that note-taking, that thing I hated most growing up (almost as much as I hated liver and onions for dinner) was actually something I was teaching my 1st graders. Not only could they do it, but they enjoyed it…and the learning really did stick. Hope this helps!

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I think note taking should start in middle school.

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note taking should begin at the earliest time possible. If there is time in elementary school then good. Does vocabulary count as note taking. I mean remembering how to spell is important.

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I think note taking should start from elementary.

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Thank you for consolidating the research. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

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“Whether it’s taking notes from lectures (Kiewra, 2002) or from reading (Rahmani & Sadeghi, 2011; Chang & Ku, 2014), note-taking has been shown to improve student learning. In other words, if we want our students to remember more of what they learn in our classes, it’s better to have them take notes than it is to not have them take notes.”

Does it improve student “learning” or “retention”? I think there is definitely power in taking notes but does this actually look at deep understanding of a concept and application or retention and regurgitation? Would love to know your thoughts.

Thanks for sharing this! So much great stuff 🙂

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Hey George,

I think we can define “learning” in a lot of different ways. If students are only consuming information, recording it, and then regurgitating it, but never applying it in any authentic way, then it’s questionable whether they are really learning it.

On the other hand, without consuming actual information and ideas that have been put out into the world by others, students will be limited in how far their application can go. I can think of all kinds of examples, but I’ll use myself here:

When I wanted to create a podcast, I watched a lot of YouTube videos and read a lot of articles that taught me how to do it. I took notes. Lots of them. Messy at first, but then I rewrote and reorganized them so they were more useful to me later. I watched some of the videos more than once and revised my notes. Then, as I practiced with all the technical elements of audio recording and editing, I referred back to those notes. The learning was an interplay between intake, processing (note-taking), and application. If any of those parts were missing, I think the learning would suffer.

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Thank you for the useful information!

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Loved this. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how to teach my kids with special needs how to do notes, and I loved how you covered scaffolded notes and the digital issue. This is just amazing.

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I saw Daniel Willingham, a widely respected educational researcher, present on this topic a year or so ago. This post by him is a good summary and also points to some research studies that you didn’t include. Enjoy, everyone! https://tinyurl.com/ycxtk4rf

Thanks so much, Angela!

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A very important issue in note taking is the distinction learning from taking notes and using notes to learn. These processes are distinct and very different issues can be important with each. If notes are not used for review, some learners would be better off note taking notes. Note review does not necessarily depend on the learner taking notes.

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What a great resource on how to make note-taking an integral part of our classroom. I am planning on using a few TED talk videos in my 9th and 11th grade English classes, and this has helped me think about how to have the students taking notes in a much more scaffolded way for their learning.

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Thank you, Jennifer, for such a useful and thoughtful post. I’ve just translated it to Portuguese to share with my colleagues and oldest students at my school. Your writings have already inspired my teaching so many times! Ines

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Thank you for that wonderful summary. I was looking for ways to introduce note-taking for my fourth graders. This gave me tons of info. Thank you 😊

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Great post! I’m wondering if you have any handy-dandy “how to take notes” mini-courses like the plagiarism one you created? I bought that one and love it! Thanks for all of your hard work and your honesty. It shines through in your podcasts.

I have been thinking about doing one…It’s just not made yet!

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I’ve used Cornell notetaking for many years now. And I’ve added a column on the right to place visuals. And like Doug Neill, I’ve observed some of my high school students using the visuals on their tests! I’ve given them extra points for using them. I’m excited to use more visuals this year!Great info. Thanks

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The age-old tradition of note-taking with a few more research based findings made this podcast truly interesting, and for that, Jenn needs to be complimented for preparing and sharing such an important part of learning at all academic levels. As a high school teacher of 30+ years, I have always encouraged my students to take notes at all time, having a notebook open and ready to go- write, draw, doodle, something. I do give them ideas on how to be a great note-taker! I kept my hand-written notes for years (depending on my need for them in high school, undergraduate, and then graduate school) I even have years of notes as a teacher and I always feel that adding or editing newer versions has been fun and has brought new meaning to teaching. With changes coming along with 21st-century learning, it is always good to blend the old and the new… thank you Jenn for bringing new light to this tradition. Cheers.

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Hi Jennifer,

Thank you so much for sharing your finds. I am curious to hear your thoughts about taking notes in a proficiency/ci based world language classroom. I provide the students with visuals and specific phrases in context for comprehension purposes. I have strayed away from traditional practices in the language classroom, and therefore having the students sit for 20-25 minutes taking notes is not a reality in my classroom.

Thanks! Kia

Hi Kia ~ I’m not familiar with the methods you’re describing. I found something about Comprehensible Input in language learning, but I’m not sure if that’s right. Also, the description I read didn’t make much sense. If you could explain the process a bit more, that would help.

With that said, what I’m trying to get across in this post is about the value of note-taking in general, and in some classrooms, that might mean just a few notes every couple of days. It wouldn’t have to be 20-25 minutes of solid note-taking. In your class, do students take in any information that they might remember better by writing it down? If so, and if they don’t currently have any strategies for doing that, you might consider building it into your class time.

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I love the information on scaffolding and guided notes! I see so much value and potential in that to help kids get the value of note taking even if thier natural aptitude is poor in this area.

Do you have any suggestions on how students who struggle with note taking like my daughter who is dyslexic, as well as been diagnosed with DCD (developmental coordination disorder) can modify note taking so they can gain the benefit of the process without using all available focus and attention on it, and losing out on the greater information because they are struggling with writing and spelling?

Hi Angela ~

I have a couple of suggestions: (1) Guided notes are especially helpful for students who don’t take notes quickly. If her teachers are willing/able to provide skeletal notes where more is already written down and your daughter just fills in key information, it would really benefit her. (2) She could be paired with another student in class who takes good notes and sit beside that student, watching as the notes are built and even suggesting additions or changes as they are written. Then the notes could be copied (or shared digitally) for your daughter to use in her own studies. (3) She could make audio recordings of lectures and listen later so she can add to the notes she took during class. Using something like a Livescribe Pen would even tie her written notes in with specific parts of the audio.

This collection looks like it would have some more in-depth suggestions.

Hope this helps!

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Thanks so much for this, already shared with all my HS classes with appropriate emphasis of course. I find assigning a simple grade that is reviewed regularly helps with motivation 1-3 dependent on the level of engagement/reflection. On the point of handwritten v typed notes, I’m so tired of hearing this argument trotted out, a close reading of the research shows that the issue is not the medium, but the method; ie are they mindlessly transcribing, or actively summarising/reflecting/questioning? When taught the latter, then the medium used is irrelevant, the bigger issue—as your post so effectively highlights—is that note taking is rarely actually taught (like the skill of summarising and paraphrasing) it’s assumed that it’s an automatic talent… For those that are interested in a more critical consideration of the research around typing and note taking, please see my post here: http://doverdlc.blogspot.com/2016/04/typing-vs-writing.html

Thanks for sharing this, Sean.

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Just an update for you. In the months since we revisited note taking with renewed vigour inspired by your article, it’s been reassuring to see how effective this practice is. But I have to say my thoughts in handwritten v digital have deepened as a result… I LOVE the wise/nuanced position you take in this post, but FWIW, here’s what I’m noticing with my HS students, who all use digital notes:

I’m a ‘tech coach’ and developed a model I call SAMMS to facilitate ways to help teachers move their use of digital tools from replacement to transformative (RAT) or Substitution to Transformation (SAMR). Applying that model to note taking, looks like this :

Notes that are situated: read, update, edit from anywhere, any device, any time, any place that suits you. Very difficult to lose notes this way as well.

Notes that leverage internet access: links to web resources, clarify information, add quotes, definition of terms. Notes are searchable, this alone is a game changer.

Multimodal notes: inclusion of rich media, eg image, video, voice notes…

Notes that are mutable: revisit notes and make edits/updates, especially as your perceptions/understanding evolves over time.

Social: share notes with a partner and peer/pair share. Notes shared with a teacher facilitate accountability, but also the possibility of feedback by the teacher. (This has been amazing, I learn as much from the content of their notes, as I do from any assignment they do, probably more… BTW I do grade these 1-3 just to indicate level of engagement, based on this article in fact, eg more detail, more personal!) … So if you exploit SAMMS then digital note taking is a no brainer, but combining strategies works well too, eg take notes by hand, in real time, very short hand, then type/dictate them up and add detail later; this also acts as a great opportunity to reflect, revisit, consolidate.

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Hey Sean, Thanks for taking the time to share this strategy-it seems to be making an impact!

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I loved your video. Great ideas I plan to try with my Aspire/GED class. Thank you.

Great to hear, Paul! I’ll be sure Jenn sees this.

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Thanks for this great post & reminder. I was just needing to add formal textbook kind of learning to what students learned in a hands-on lab. Using some of your points, I hand-drew an interactive notetaking guide to the chapter that might have resembled a treasure hunt more than note-taking. After using it with 8th graders the past 2 days, I can tell you that it was more effective.

I did a little variation on the pause/reflect step. I had them do that and then collected and redistributed all the papers. Everyone had a someone else’s paper. They read thru the paper and concentrated on their recap summaries. We talked about what they noticed, what was good & what could be improved. THEN we talked about how a coach tells players how to improve on something without being “mean”. They wrote a note for improvement on the paper and briefly explained it.

And then each person got their original paper back…decided how much of the suggested improvement was valid and I gave them time to make an improvement. Especially encouraging them to make a judgment about whether the suggestion was worthy of doing or if they could customize it even better.

I will tell you that between the highlighters, colored pencils, recaps, suggestions for improvements and class pauses (which I call Hey Wait a Minutes)….it went 1,000,000% better.

Thanks for your suggestions and good ideas.

Yay! This is great to hear — thank for sharing, Marsha!

Wow — so much good stuff here. I bet your students loved it, too. Thanks for sharing this!

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Do you have an example of this? This sounds engaging.

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This podcast couldn’t have come at a better time. Starting next week, I’m attempting a note-taking portfolio for the semester that I’m really excited about.

I teach ESL to international students at a university. We’ve done listening/note-taking practice with pre-recorded lectures and an open-notes comprehension test at the end, but its inauthenticity has always driven me crazy.

So, I made my students buy Rocketbook Everlast notebooks and Frixion Pens (not an ad, I promise) in lieu of a textbook. They will have to have take notes in their major grad/undergrad classes, then submit compile their notes into a .pdf – easy to do with these notebooks – and submit them weekly/biweekly. I’ll be giving small amounts of feedback and adding criteria based on different learning theory (ex: try dual coding/sketchnotes, or Cornell notes, etc…). My hope is that this will create buy-in and accountability, while also helping them by successful in their other class. Fingers-crossed!

Thank you for all you do. Even though I’m not your typical audience, your work has been a huge inspiration! A tech-loving, graphic-designing creative who’s serious about innovation and best practices in teaching? It ticks all my boxes. 🙂

Thanks so much for sharing this, Natalie!

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I love this task… but it seems a bit long.

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I find Handwritting my notes more beneficial, because I can remember what I’ve written, it’s like instant mental picture in my head of words I’ve wrote, or maybe… I don’t know, just maybe I’m too “old school”. 🙂

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Hi Jennifer. Thank you so much for this episode. I needed to get a clear idea of research on note taking. That being said I must express that I am frustrated at the results.

I don’t mean any criticism to you for what you’re reporting. Obviously, the results of these studies are in no way a fault of yours. Still, as a student with a learning disability who has struggled with note taking, as a student who is always the one who couldn’t get everything down even with the professors obviously pausing, I have to responsibly challenge these results.

At the same time, I don’t want to deny my bias in this matter because I struggle so hard. I feel like how many of the students I tutor in math must feel when they tell me they are bad at math. In most cases, I use Socratic method to teach them and they prove to me that they are not bad at math at all. I feel a similar disappointment that they feel for being bad at taking notes.

I don’t like notes. I don’t want to have to take notes. I don’t want to even feel pressured to take notes. With that said, I can think of a few scenarios where I would be happy regardless of note taking being a necessary part of a class.

The first scenario that comes to mind is in line with what you mentioned on this episode where teachers give their own notes. But I’m already beginning to stress out just at the thought of those notes being incomplete. The idea that I have to be paying attention at exactly the right moment to hear that one piece of information or else lose it forever is too much pressure.

The second scenario that comes to mind is is what I think could be ideal. If I were teaching class I would have my class connect with me on a single Google doc where I have information already written to some degree as a skeletal structure of what I’m going to teach but I let them collaboratively make a single set of notes together. The real magic of Google Docs isn’t just the collaboration Factor but the option 2 highlight a section of the material and comment with a question that has its own thread that can expand in dialogue with others just to figure out what does this mean?

Those are the real sorts of things that have helped me in my studies. Rather than being spoken at, I benefit from having an open dialogue where I can have a back and forth of asking questions until I understand what the teacher is trying to communicate. Most of my professors and teachers have felt too busy or too rushed to be able to handle the questions that I have. They even tell me that I have great questions but there’s never enough time for them… while the alternative is that there’s never enough time for me.

I’m going to keep reading through your sources and keep commenting and asking questions here so that I can hopefully get an idea of the best way where I can move forward. I appreciate any and all feedback and challenges to my own position that you’re willing to offer.

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Steve, it sounds like you are a unique learner – but also that you understand what works best for you. (And what doesn’t.) As a high school teacher, I would recommend 1) Explaining to each teacher/professor what your needs are, and asking for permission to video. You would need to assure them that the video won’t be posted anywhere, or shared with anyone. I think many instructors who understand why you wish to have them will grant that permission, provided you don’t give them any reason to distrust you. 2) As you listen to the live lecture, write down your questions. Go to them after class/during office hours, and address those questions. It’s not that they don’t want to answer your during class, it’s simply a matter of time, as you mentioned. But office hours/after school provide a chance for you to get what you need, and at a pace that is more comfortable. 3) Ask if there is any way that you could get a snapshot of upcoming lectures so you have questions already formulated. So, you if know that next week the lecture is on Chapter 20, read it and send those questions beforehand to the teacher. Hopefully they can address those questions during their lecture, or they can reply to you via email. I do hope you find what works for you – keep at it!

On the subject of digital note taking, I have found that I can take notes as fast as my classmates if they are text only. The trouble comes first when there’s equations which isn’t so much a problem now because I’ve taught myself latex code to help with that. Then there’s the final problem that I haven’t really solved which is win I need to draw something like a graph. Unfortunately, I don’t have a device that can work with a stylus and everything I’ve tried drawing with a mouse takes too long to keep up with the notes.

One option that sometimes worked is taking pictures in class. I had the OneNote app linking to my notes on it but the software would often lag and be too slow to trust in the moment. If we simply switched to video lectures, I think that I would do a lot better because I can both listen at twice the speed of a normal lecture while also taking my time to write the notes and know that I covered everything that’s important when I’m done with the video. People keep telling me that some teachers let students record them on video but I haven’t met one such teacher yet.

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Wow! This is quite interesting. My take home are: *Revision, collaboration and pausing boosts the power of notes. I have done this in time past but not intentionally. I understand now how helpful this will be to the learning process.

*Providing Instructor notes improves learning. This was my major focus before now but I would rather have my students put down their understanding first so that misconceptions can be addressed while right concepts are strengthened through collaboration before giving my own notes.

What do you think about pasting the instructor’s note in the student’s notebooks?

When discussing note taking, I find it useful to consider purpose. The classic distinction is the immediate goal of more active process and the long term goal of external storage (for study). This distinction is a great way to analyze issues such as access to distraction and the role of expert notes.

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Hi Jennifer, Thanks for sharing your research on note-taking. I am a secondary teacher in Ontario. The course I teach is called Learning Strategies, which is to help students with “exceptionalities”, such as a Learning Disability or ADHD. I have been doing most of your proposed strategies in my class and you reaffirmed the important need based on research. My students are also in other subject classes and some have an accommodation (often related to grapho motor, processing, attention, or memory issues) for note-taking assistance or to be provided with copies of notes. Even with guided notes, the use of a computer, and copies of slides (provided before or after the lesson) many students struggle or resist trying to take notes. Nevermind revising notes, but the idea of doing it in class is important. Do you have any ideas (articles, contacts, strategies) that might be good for myself and my students to review? I suspect this is also a problem for post-secondary students.

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Do you or any of your readers know of workshops (or conferences, or classes, etc.) that I could attend to learn more about teaching good note-taking using some or all of the strategies you address? Thank you in advance for any helpful suggestions you or others share.

Sylvia Duckworth offers some workshops and classes you might want to check out. That’s all I know of right now — hope it helps!

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I think that more workshops and classes should be added because we all can learn something from deeper learning and note taking skills.

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For years I have been using student centered notes in my class. Students are given a choice of note-taking methods. Examples are guided notes, cornell notes, sketch-notes and digital note-taking. Concept maps are also helpful tools.

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Thank you for pointing out that there are multiple studies about notetaking that need to be considered. People don’t seem to notice that the Oppenheimer and Mueller study was done on students at Princeton- the outcomes may not be expected for everyone. Students with disabilities or poor working memory may still need computer access just to take effective notes. How does banning computers in a lecture help students that are differently abled? Here is a study that shows computers can help bridge that gap: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Note-taking-with-computers%3A-Exploring-alternative-Bui-Myerson/0352ed76cb27ff9b0edecfcf9556bc1e19756e9e

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I agree with what John said about note taking. I usually do cloze notes but started doing electronic notes this year. seems to be working well for some students

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Scaffolding is extremely important for special education students to effectively access the general education curriculum. I believe the same practice for this group of students should be implemented universally for all students.

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As a first year teacher, reading about the benefits of guided notes was very reassuring. I teach 8th grade English and have a high percentage of students with special needs and who are English Language Learners. So I started out using guided notes for nearly every time they need to take notes. I adopted the practice with my other students as well, because they seem to benefit as well. I also want to make sure they have all of the information, and they take such a long time to write down everything (even if it’s honestly not that much). I try not to spend a lot of time “lecturing,” but if I’m stopping for upwards of 5 minutes for them to jot down a slide every few minutes, we lose so much time. Thank you again for this research and for all of the wonderful resources you provide!

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First of all, let me say I really appreciate your blog/podcast. I don’t know where you find the time to research and pull this all together in such a concise and digestible manner. Thank you so much fo all that you do.

Now for some other thoughts. Please know that you are just the first of many educators and presenters who I’ll be commenting on. As educators and presenters, we have to stop using the phrases “THE research shows…” and “Research shows…” It makes us sound authoritative and backed up other authorities but it is disingenuous. Because “THE research” shows a lot of things. Even in math, medicine, and hard sciences there many disagreements in “THE research”. When my students say, “Research shows…” I always ask “which research?” This forces them to be more direct, honest, and identify the source of their research. I’m not saying you did this but we all are subject to confirmation bias and tend toward research that confirms our view of the world. Some of the studies you cited are several decades old. That alone doesn’t invalidate them but if they haven’t been replicated then we can not make definitive claims about the results. This we now know is true of a LOT of key research in my discipline, psychology. The lack of replication especially with different populations has called into question what we think we KNOW about human nature (or behavior and mental processes).

I think we would all be better off as educators and presenters when we say, “A study by…. backed by studies by….shows….” is far more accurate and genuine in the claims made. In this case, someone else can say, “But didn’t …. show the opposite result and wasn’t there some concern about …’s subject pool or use of xyz statistical method?” This opens us up to the opportunity for a more robust discussion of what “the research shows” and these various results might be applied.

I guess I’m just asking is for us to own our research and references and make it clear where we are getting the information from rather than stating “THE research shows…” This helps the voracity of intellectual debate and discovery as well as advances the inquiry. There’s a tendency to end the discussion when we say, “THE research shows…” as opposed to “According to research by ….”

Thanks again for the work you put in and the products you produce. One more suggestion for note-taking I might suggest is Kwik Notes by Jim Kwik. This technique is fast and simple yet powerful (at least to me) https://jimkwik.com/kwik-brain-013/

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Cool site, not been here before. An interesting in depth article I will read in more detail.

Perfecting note taking as an art is essential to me. I find myself writing verbose digital journal entries and porting them over to Anki as a deck is ok but having to modify, break down, refactor the cards takes up half my revision time. I know this is part of encoding but I find my clunky note taking summarisation skills miss the mark and burn productivity time.

My goal is to be able to summarise points I read similar to using the Feynman technique, to be able to convey more with the minimal amount of concise info.

But anyhow thanks for this great resource, will be studying it and further aspect of your site in detail.

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How do you recommend adapting these best practices for virtual school? Would you have students take notes digitally so teachers can check them, have students take notes on paper and take pictures of their notes that they upload, or just have students take notes and not have the teacher review them?

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Hi Michelle! All of these are viable options, but I think it all depends on the end goal. If you want to see student notes, then I think giving them the choice to type or handwrite is valuable, just like the article mentions. Maybe consider doing this at first to see where students might need some direction and then leave it up to them? For digital notes, there are lots of apps to choose from if that’s a direction you can and want to take. You could check out Microsoft Onenote , something simpler like a shared Google Doc , or Kami if you want your students to annotate a PDF. To submit pictures beyond just emailing them to you, they could be pasted into Google Slides/Powerpoint.

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Hi Jennifer – thank you for this. I found this all very helpful when putting together some activities together on note-taking for some new to HE students. Cheers!

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I read with interest your document on note taking and the comments that followed. You have provided excellent guidance for a classroom in which is essentially lecture driven as you point out in your first paragraph. In this context notetaking is important because it makes a potentially passive learning environment into an active one, because to take notes, rather than replicating what they see and hear, students must process the experience enough to write it in their own words. By the way, one of the reasons note taking on a computer is less effective for learning is that a good typist can record so quickly that there is no need to think, the information passes from teacher to computer with little processing by the student’s brain. Seen as a learning tool, rewriting and editing notes becomes significant because it creates another opportunity for the student to process and reorganize the information. Thus the advice you provide for taking an editing notes in a lecture context is right on.

However, there is another classroom context in which your suggestions need to be modified. In a classroom where the student is actively engaged by the work itself, as in active reading, or creative math problem solving or science investigations, or any other type of investigation, it is the work itself that engages the student. In this case, notetaking and the notebook take on a different role, and the strategies therefore change and are more nuanced. In this case I prefer to think of the notebook as a grade-level appropriate intellectual diary of the student’s experiences. A format I like has been called by some an interactive notebook in which the right page is a record of the student work and thinking and the left page is a place for further creative thought, perhaps In the form of questions, wonderings, doodles, sketches, etc. In this context, there is no place for editing or rewriting the notes, because the notes represent the most accurate description of what the student experienced because they were written at the time of the experience. Those notes are in a sense sacred since they represent the real experience of the student to the extent that they could represent it. Therefore, they should not be edited. On the other hand, it would be appropriate to create, on subsequent pages, a new document that incorporates information from the notes and other sources to create a more complete explanatory document of the student work. In this context, the notebook is conceptually divided into two parts, one private, and one public. That distinction plays a role when the teachers evaluates student notebooks. The private part that student creates as work is done is assessed in terms of process and creativity, depending on the context of the lesson plan. If the work is spelled out by the teacher, then the evaluation would be in terms of how well the student used the process provided by the teacher. If the lesson design is more open, the evaluation would be more in terms of what ideas the student brought to the activity. Having done the work and perhaps contributed to a whole class discussion of the work, the student could then write a new entry that includes both their own private notes as well as the insights from other students and the teach in discussion. That public part could then be evaluated on the basis of content accuracy, and if appropriate, writing clarity, accuracy, format, etc. In the current context in STEM learning, this active classroom format has become the norm but sadly not the most common context, which remains the lecture format. That said, your document is important for those who choose to continue to lecture in spite of the new norms. However, I suggest your document needs to be amended to support those teachers who are working to transition to the new more student centered classroom inherent in the new STEM learning standards.

Hi Joseph! Thank you so much for taking the time to write in and share this. I’ll make sure Jenn sees your suggestions.

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The video and article provided many great tips. I want my students to take note taking seriously and not to think of it as a chore. Most of my students take a photo of notes, but I am sure the notes get lost amongst the photos they reall want to view.

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Does it improve student “learning” or “retention”? I think there is definitely power in taking notes but does this actually look at deep understanding of a concept and application or retention and regurgitation? Would love to know your thoughts. Thanks for sharing this.

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I was listening to this episode while walking on the beach and it hit me that Math Giraffe on TPT offers amazing doodle notes templates. I recently found these and can’t wait to use them in my classroom. I love the research and all the ideas presented.


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  2. Note taking

    note taking tips for research papers

  3. How To Improve Note Taking Skills

    note taking tips for research papers

  4. Top 10 Note Taking Tips that Work Well

    note taking tips for research papers

  5. Organizing Notes For Research Paper

    note taking tips for research papers


    note taking tips for research papers


  1. How to take notes?|How to take study notes in Tamil|How to take notes effectively|Tips to take notes

  2. 6 How to Write Effective Meeting Summaries

  3. How To Choose The RIGHT Journal For Your Research Paper


  5. 5 How to Write Effective Meeting Summaries

  6. Learn to Notein: Create Your Own Template


  1. PDF Taking and Organizing Notes for Research Papers

    Why take notes? Note taking is the transcription of information using shortening techniques to create an outside memory source. Students take notes to record information and to aid in comprehension and reflection. Note taking is an essential part of writing any research paper because they give you a better understanding of course material.

  2. PDF Notes on Note-Taking: Review of Research and Insights for Students and

    Preamble and recommendations Students' notes, created in class or while reviewing course material, are an important tool for learning. Many students and instructors feel that note-taking is an obvious and intuitive skill to have, yet few consider or encourage best practices.

  3. 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing ...

    Taking good notes will make the research process easier by enabling you to locate and remember sources and use them effectively. While some research projects requiring only a few sources may seem easily tracked, research projects requiring more than a few sources are more effectively managed when you take good bibliographic and informational notes.

  4. Note-taking

    Consider writing notes by hand. Typing notes on your computer is convenient, but consider that research has shown - for those who are able to do so - that we learn better when we write notes by hand. When we write notes by hand, we transcribe less and interpret more.

  5. How to take Research Notes

    Keep your notes short and legible. Note Taking Tips Continued: Things to Avoid Avoid using pencils or markers that may bleed through. Avoid erasing entries.

  6. PDF Reading and Taking Notes on Scholarly Journal Articles

    Reading Strategy The SQ3R Method Survey, skim, and scan entire reading assignment. Observe titles, subtitles, charts, diagrams, figures, tables. Preview the conclusion and summary and then the abstract/introduction. Think of this step as a "preview" to a movie you are about to watch.

  7. How to Do Research: A Step-By-Step Guide: 4a. Take Notes

    Take Notes Note Taking in Bibliographic Management Tools We encourage students to use bibliographic citation management tools (such as Zotero, EasyBib and RefWorks) to keep track of their research citations. Each service includes a note-taking function. Find more information about citation management tools here.

  8. Organize / Take Notes

    After you take notes, re-read them. Then re-organize them by putting similar information together. Working with your notes involves re-grouping them by topic instead of by source. Re-group your notes by re-shuffling your index cards or by color-coding or using symbols to code notes in a notebook. Review the topics of your newly-grouped notes.

  9. Taking Notes from Research Reading

    1. Know what kind of ideas you need to record Focus your approach to the topic before you start detailed research. Then you will read with a purpose in mind, and you will be able to sort out relevant ideas. First, review the commonly known facts about your topic, and also become aware of the range of thinking and opinions on it.

  10. Note making for dissertations

    Approximately 20-30 minutes. Access to the internet. All the resources used here are available freely. Some equipment for jotting down your thoughts, a pen and paper will do, or your phone or another electronic device. Note taking v note making When you think about note taking, what comes to mind?

  11. 9 Organizing Research: Taking and Keeping Effective Notes

    Start thinking analytically about the argument as soon as you can. Use those ideas to label and organize your notes. Include keywords or "tags" that capture why you thought to take down this information in a consistent place on each note card (and when using the apps described below).

  12. Taking Notes

    Taking Notes for Research Papers Taking Notes How to Take Notes. First of all, make sure that you record all necessary and appropriate information: author, title, publisher, place of publication, volume, the span of pages, date. It's probably easiest to keep this basic information about each source on individual 3x5 or 4x6 notecards.

  13. Reading Well and Taking Research Notes

    Be Clear: Make sure you have noted the source and page number! Be Organized: Keep your notes organized but in a single place so that you can refer back to notes about other readings at the same time. Be Consistent: You'll want to find specific notes later, and one way to do that is to be consistent in the way you describe things.

  14. 3 Ways to Take Notes for Your Research Paper

    Write a summary/commentary. Summarizing and commenting is the third type of note-taking. A summary is needed when you want to keep track or record of the general idea of large amounts of material. Its purpose is to condense an extended idea or argument into considerably fewer words.

  15. Note-Taking

    an Excelsior University site Research » Note-Taking Note-Taking Taking notes well is a highly underrated skill. If you take notes well, your writing process will flow much more smoothly than if you take notes with an erratic and incomplete system.

  16. Note-taking for Research

    Keep all your notes in one file, digital or otherwise. Doing so will help you identify connections among different pieces of information. It will also help you make connections between your notes and the research questions and subtopics you identified earlier. Know When to Summarize, Paraphrase, or Directly Quote a Source

  17. Note Taking Tips for Research Papers

    Use these tricks for taking notes and organizing your research: Keep a master list of all sources, including title, author, date, publishing information, and page numbers. Give each source a code number, and label each note with the code and page number. If the source doesn't have page numbers, include any other location information.

  18. A beginner's guide to note-taking

    The outline method is one of the most commonly used note-taking methods for university students. In fact, it's possible you're already using it! The outline method is easy to use and adjust for different purposes — taking lectures notes, reading notes and studying. How to use it The outline method helps you organize ideas in a hierarchical approach.

  19. Tips for Grads: Subtle essentials to writing research papers

    Research papers are often required and can be valuable opportunities to deepen your understanding of your field or topic, contribute to a larger body of knowledge, and develop essential skills for future careers in academia, industry, or other research-intensive professions. These tips aim to help demystify the process of completing a research paper by focusing on some of the subtleties of ...

  20. How to Take Notes while Doing Research

    Taking Notes on Index Cards. As you begin reading your sources, use either 3″ x 5″ or 4″ x 6″ index cards to write down information you might use in your paper. The first thing to remember is: Write only one idea on each card. Even if you write only a few words on one card, don't write anything about a new idea on that card.

  21. Smart Note-Taking for Research Paper Writing

    Note-taking (sometimes written as notetaking or note-taking) is the practice of recording information from different sources and platforms. For academic writing, note-taking is the process of obtaining and compiling information that answers and supports the research paper's questions and topic. Notes can be in one of three forms: summary ...

  22. (Pdf) Research on Student Notetaking: Implications for Faculty and

    Notetaking has been a staple activity of academic life, particularly in lecture courses, for decades. Despite its widespread use, notetaking has generally been taken for granted by both instructors...

  23. Note-taking and Handouts in The Digital Age

    INTRODUCTION. Note-taking is an important aspect of formal classroom learning, 1 and students who take more course lecture notes in general are higher achievers. 2,3 However, a number of confounding variables affect student note-taking and, hence, student learning. These include instructional variables such as lecture structure, knowledge of forthcoming tests, perceived relevance of the ...

  24. 7 Note-Taking Tips to Make Studying a Breeze

    2 Prioritize the speaker or text. We all want our notes to be as thorough as possible, but don't ignore the teacher or text because you're too focused on note-taking. Always keep the speaker or reading at the center of your attention, and take notes only to complement your direct learning, not supplant it.

  25. Note-taking: A Research Roundup

    This is especially true for students with learning disabilities. One frequently used note-taking system is Cornell Notes. This approach has been around for decades, and the format provides a simple way to take "live" notes in class and condense and review them later. 4. Adding visuals boosts the power of notes.