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Take Notes and Read Sources: Overview

Taking Notes

Notes are not just to record information but also to help you think. Your goals in taking notes are to:

  • Summarize the source
  • Critically evaluate the source
  • Connect the ideas in the source to other sources and to your research question
  • Distinguish your ideas from the author's ideas
  • Connect the source's ideas to its citation

Depending on your assignment, you may need to read sources closely and take notes on specific parts of the text or you may need to see the big picture and synthesize across sources.

Exploring a Topic

A concept map allows you to explore a topic by organizing related ideas and themes.

Synthesizing Across Sources

A synthesis matrix allows you to easily recognize connections across sources. Each row of the chart is one source. Read down the columns to make connections across sources.

Close Reading Sources

There are many different styles of taking notes based on deeply reading a source. Whatever method you use: 

  • Determine your goals for reading the source to ensure your notes are relevant to your research
  • List the source citation as part of the notes
  • Separate the author's ideas from your own

Most of your notes should be concise paraphrases of the source content. Include your own questions and connections to your research project.

Source Notes in Citation Managers

Refworks, Zotero, Mendeley, and other citation managers allow you to annotate and add personal notes to the citations and documents you are storing.

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