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Taking Notes

Cue Card Method

The Cue Card Method is similar to the Visualizing Method; however, with this method, you use physical cue cards to take your notes.

The goal of this method is to create notes that you can physically sort into an outline of your paper. Think of your notes like a deck of cards—with the Cue Card Method, you can shuffle ideas, quotes, and thoughts into different orders until you find a structure for your written assignment.

How to Take Notes Using the Cue Card Method

For the Cue Card Method, you must use only one (1) cue card for every note you take (make sure you have enough cards before you start!)

Each idea must be separate from each other so you can physically sort the cards into an outline for your written assignment.

Follow these steps to take your notes:

  1. Take notes on anything you think is relevant to your topic or research question: Include 3 things on your card:
    1. The author(s) names, the title of the book or article, and the page number (if applicable) in the upper right corner.
    2. Either paraphrase the idea, or copy out the text word for word in the top half of the card.
    3. Write down—in your own words—why this idea or quote is important to your topic or research question in the bottom of your card. Ask yourself: Why is this idea important? How will I use this idea in my paper?
  2. Sort your cards by themes or patterns: Look for content that could become the arguments or main points for your written assignment.
  3. Group cards based on main points: These card groups can become paragraphs in your written assignment.
  4. Create your outline: Now that you have your ideas grouped together, you can start building the outline of your assignment. Move ideas and quotes around until you've created the structure of your written assignment!

Pros & Cons of the Cue Card Method


  • Encourages students to capture ideas and quotes while also reflecting on their importance to the written assignment.
  • Emphasizes keeping track of sources while researching, which is critical to make proper citations later.
  • Allows students to easily sort and re-sort ideas while building their assignment outline.


  • Requires a large amount of cue cards to complete.
  • Hand-written cue cards will need to be typed up later in the draft version of the written assignment.
  • Cue cards can only be used once—writing on the backs of cards for a different assignment could lead to confusion.