Research Phase Three: Taking Notes

Contributor: Emily Love. Lesson ID: 10435

OK, you have all these great facts about your subject, and you'll remember them all in your head, right? Maybe not! Use online resources to learn how to write meaningful notes to record your research!



English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • I'm sure you’ve seen an index card before, but what is its actual purpose?

Create a list of uses for a 3x5 index card (maybe list them on an index card!). Start with ways you’ve seen them used, but feel free to come up with creative uses as well!

  • What kinds of people might need them?
  • Why would you need them for writing?

The past two Related Lessons in this Research Writing series have focused on brainstorming and finding research resources. If you missed a lesson or want a refresher, catch up in the right-hand sidebar.

Once you gather good sources for your research project, you need to begin taking notes and putting ideas into your own words. As you read, you have to learn what kind of information you should be writing down in your notes. To understand this process, check out these tips for what information you should include in your notes:

  1. You must read a source from beginning to end.
  2. You must read sentence-by-sentence.
  3. You focus on the most important words, not articles and prepositions.
  4. You don't have to rewrite words that are closely connected to your topic.
  5. You have to create sub-topics.

Your next question might be, "Where do I take these notes?" One of the best things you can do when working on a research project is to buy a pack of multi-colored 3X5 index cards to use for note-taking. Here are the steps to creating useful notecards:

  1. Number your sources so you can remember where you got the information. Write this number in the top right corner of the notecard.
  2. Write the sub-topic on the top left corner of the notecard. You should also choose a specific color to represent a specific sub-topic.
  3. Only write one main point on each notecard and make sure each point connects to your main research question or idea.
  4. Write only essential words.
  5. If you want to copy down a direct quotation (something that you do not rewrite in your own words), use quotation marks and write down the name of the author(s) who said it.
  6. If your source has multiple pages, write down the page number so you can find this information again.

Look at these example notecards for a research project about the placement of dolphins on the food chain:

The examples contain one direct quotation from the source, along with the author of the source, the National Center for Families Learning. The source was an article that did not have multiple pages, so the page numbers did not have to be included.

Continue on to the Got It? section to practice with the dolphins!

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