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Taking Notes Module

Why Take Notes for Written Assignments?

If your professor has assigned an essay, a term paper, or any other type of written assignment where you need to use readings or sources (articles, websites, book chapters, etc.) then you’ll want to take good notes. Taking notes as you research has many benefits including:

  • Keeping you focused as you read and research.
  • Allowing you to organize what you’ve read to develop a clear argument or area of focus.
  • Giving you something to look back on if you need to add to or adjust your argument.
  • Helping to keep track of your sources so you can avoid plagiarism.
  • Making it easier and less time consuming to write your final product.

Depending on the type of assignment and the instructions from your professor, you may have to take notes from a variety of sources which could include things like scholarly journal articles, articles from websites or encyclopedia entries.

Remember to practice the active reading techniques we discussed in the last section.

How to Get Started

Your Topic or Research Question:

In order to take effective notes, you'll need to know what information you're looking for. Having a general topic is a good place to start - having a research question is even better. Having a question in mind will allow you to find information specific to answering that question.

The Library can help you to develop your research question; visit the library for help.

Take a look at the Academic Research Guide for more information on the research process. 


Once you've got your topic or research question, your next step will be to track down sources. Depending on the type of assignment you've been given, you may need multiple sources (more than one) from a variety of source types (articles, websites, etc.)

The Complete Citation:

When you're ready to start taking notes you'll need to know where the information is coming from. You will need to include this information by citing it, using the citation style your professor has assigned. To ensure you have all the information you will need for a complete citation later on, make sure you note down at least the following:

  • Author name(s)

  • Title

  • Page numbers (if applicable)

You will need more information to write your complete citation, but this information will get you started and make it easier for you to track down the rest of the details later.

 Use the Citation Guide to find more information on writing citations.