Writing a research paper pt 2: How to take notes that build on your thesis statements

Effective note taking is a key ingredient in helping students write organized, A-worthy research papers.

Effective note taking is a key ingredient in helping students write organized, A-worthy research papers.

Writing a research paper takes time and planning. Now you’ve narrowed yourself to a single topic and you can formulate one or more thesis statements. Then you’ll decide on one central statement for your paper. Your research will continue for at least another week as you learn how to take notes and gather your sources for your paper.

Writing a research paper

During your first week of working on your research paper, you spent a lot of time looking at sources of information. If you were smart, you saved the links and other information that would help you find those sources again when you begin to flesh out your paper.

That’s where Questia’s research tools really help out. As a member of Questia, you have access to a number of easy-to-use tools to help you find, store and cite your sources. You’ll also find step-by-step video tutorials on how to conduct your research and write your paper.

For example, the tutorials on how to conduct research for your paper include these topics:

  • using primary and secondary sources
  • developing a research plan and schedule
  • determining the value of your sources and deciding what sources to use

Without a doubt, you’ll get everything you need to complete your research paper all in one place at Questia.

Next steps in writing your research paper

It’s time to make a schedule for completing your research paper by the due date. Use a calendar and circle your due date, then work backward to make your plan. Your schedule might look like this:

  • week one: clarify the assignment, do preliminary research, brainstorm possible topics.
  • week two: narrow your topic to one research question, find sources and evaluate them to decide which are the best. Take good notes.
  • week three: outline and draft your paper, add the citations.
  • week four: get feedback and revise your paper, fine tune citations and formatting, write your conclusion.

Obviously following a schedule like this one means you have to start right away on your project waiting until that last minute won’t work.

Thesis statement

Every research paper answers a question, argues a point of view, analyzes an issue or explains a topic. Once you have decided how you will approach your subject, then you can create your thesis statement. Once formulated, the rest of your work will center on fulfilling the promise of your thesis statement.

Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements can be found at the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). An example of a thesis statement for a paper that will analyze an issue is:

“An analysis of the college admission process reveals one challenge facing counselors: accepting students with high test scores or students with strong extracurricular backgrounds.”

If this is your thesis statement, then you know that all of your research activity must involve finding good sources that will break down this issue into its component parts, evaluate the issue and present your findings to your readers.

Find and evaluate sources

Even though you’re a wiz at surfing the Internet, that doesn’t mean that you’re an expert at finding credible sources for your research paper. Professors don’t want you to use sources such as Wikipedia, blogs or social media.

Emily Guthrie provided students a checklist for finding the best sources in her August 27, 2013, post for SecondarySolutions.com titled, “Teaching Student to Determine Credibility of Online Sources.”

Guthrie suggests these questions in her checklist:

  • Is the source primary or secondary? (primary is better)
  • Are there citations or a bibliography?

Is there a date of publication for the webpage or article?

Be sure to check out the entire list. If you follow Guthrie’s advice, you’re sure to have sources that will improve your paper and impress your professor.

Taking notes

Taking notes for your research paper is a different process than taking notes in class. Suggestions for effective note taking are found at the Hunter College Reading/Writing Center website. In an article titled, “Research Guidelines: Notetaking,” suggestions included:

“Using your own words, take notes that briefly summarize (commonly known as paraphrasing) the most important points of each source. Try to be as clear and concise as possible in your note taking and try to omit details that are not relevant to your topic.”

Eventually you’ll be able to incorporate your notes into your research paper. So paraphrasing is essential. Don’t copy and paste from your source or you’ll risk committing plagiarism.

In case you missed the first part of the research paper series, you can click here to view it. To continue on to the third part of the series, click here.

What tips and tools do you have for taking good notes for a research paper? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Learn how to take notes and conduct research for your research paper on Questia.

19 replies
  1. Haback Masvaure says:

    Thank you so much the tips. Would someone post me research papers for political science in African Studies. Would surely appreciate

    • Claire Moore says:

      As a subscriber to Questia, you have access to all sorts of research that has been done on thousands of topics. This is the kind of peer reviewed research that is appropriate to use when writing your own research paper.

      Check out the free trial and see for yourself

  2. Dr Bhimarao.Sathyanarayanan. says:

    Thanks QUESTIA ! for all the assistance and guidance for furtherance of the research. I request members to assist me in my research on HIV/AIDS.

  3. Siraj M. Funtua says:

    I really enjoy your piece of write up. It is really educative. Keep it up. Presently I am planning for my PhD proposal. It really gave me an insight on how to write a worthy research questions.

  4. Somieari Ikiroma- Owiye says:

    I am writing on directing on African traditional theatrical practices, can someone send me related materials.

  5. dineo mafura says:

    Tips that someone can really follow simple and understandable!
    Hopeful for positive results cos I’m waiting university response on my submitted research proposal.


  6. Robert says:

    Dear Clair,
    I sincerely appreciate your great service. I am now using these on my research methodologies course where I am required to do two journal article reviews which will lead to formulation of a research proposal and eventually the development and submission of a thesis for my course in the Semester 1 of 2014. Once again thank you for your invaluable service.



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