The note card system
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Adapted from The Note Card System. Once you have finished your preliminary research you must organize the information and your thoughts. To make it easy on yourself, use the index card system. .

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The note card system l.jpg

Adapted from

The Note Card System

Once you have finished your preliminary research you must organize the information and your thoughts.

To make it easy on yourself, use the index card system.

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In order to keep your ideas in order, and to remember where you found them, there are four items to include. Although they are numbered 1-4, we will look at them out of order.

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3.Main information

  • Use three methods of taking notes (information) from your sources:

    • Paraphrasing

    • Summarizing

    • Quoting

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Main Information, continued

  • Paraphrasingmeans to put in your own words. Make sure to:

    • shorten the information and make it more clear.

    • have coherence – demonstrate understanding.

    • change at least every third word.

  • Use paraphrasing most.

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    Main Information, continued

    • Summarizing is like paraphrasing, just shorter.

      • Try paraphrasing the lead sentence of the paragraph.

      • Then simply list the ideas of the paragraph.

    • Direct quoting. Use for:

      • Conciseness

      • Memorable language

      • Accuracy/Authority.

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    Main Information, continued

    • If you are consistent at this stage

      • You will save time when it is time to write the paper.

      • You will be certain not to accidentally plagiarize someone else's work.

    • You will choose the topics for each note card later.

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    Main Information, continued

    • You have index cards with two different colors.

      • Choose one color for historical background and one color for effects.

      • Decide which one of the categories your main information fits into, then put your info onto a card with that color.

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    4.Page numbers

    • You will need page numbers on your note cards for citations throughout your research paper. Use them even when you are not quoting directly.

      • Websites generally do not have page numbers. You may write N.P.

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    2.Source number

    • Refers to the book, magazine, web cite, etc., in which you found the information.

    • Using the numbers from your working bibliography, specify which source provided the information on the card.

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    • Your working bibliography is not a complete works cited page. You will still need to use correct MLA citation format for the formal works cited page.

    Source Numbers!

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    1.  Card topic

    • With this method, you categorize the information you find by topic. For each topic, you could have cards from different sources.

      • For the research paper, we also divided your cards by color: one color for history and one for effects. Topics are smaller divisions within colors.

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    Card Topic, continued

    • You make up the name of the topics; think of them as the main idea of the card.

      • Make the titles after you make all your note cards.

    • You should have about 5-6 topics for a five page paper. That means (generally) about two cards for each topic.

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    Card Topic, continued

    For example, if you are writing a paper on the poet Langston Hughes, you may have topics such as:

    • Hughes' upbringing

    • Hughes and the

      Harlem Renaissance

    • Hughes' influences

    • Hughes' poetry

    • Hughes' political beliefs

    • Hughes' influence on


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    Card Topic, continued

    • It may seem tedious to divide note cards into topics but it serves two purposes:

      • It keeps you focused in your research.

      • Each card topic will become a body paragraph in your paper.