You’ve searched all of the available print and online sources, and have collected your research materials (if you still need more sources, see Ms. J). Now it’s time to start reading and taking notes. If you keep track of your citations at the same time, your life will be much easier! Use these tips to do both:
The high school uses the MLA style of citations.
MLA Overview: You either create a works cited page (which is a list of all of the sources you used in the paper), or a bibliography (which is a list of all the sources you read). Ask your teacher which they prefer. You must also do in-text parenthetical citations – where every time you use an idea that is not your own you put a note after the sentence that leads back to the item in your works cited list. See OWL MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics
- Create an MLA citation for each source (book, article, webpage, video, etc.) you use or read – if a book influences your thinking or broadens your knowledge you should cite it even if you don’t take notes from it.
- Use the OWL: Formatting and Style Guide to find proper citation format, or use free citation-creator services EasyBib’s, BibMe, Citation Machine’s, or use the Chrome extension Cite This For Me.
- Paste citations into a Google Doc to keep track of each source you use. Assign a number to each source, as you take notes put the number of the source with the note and the page number. This makes in-text parenthetical citations and making a works cited page a breeze! Your works cited will list everything you cite in the paper, your bibliography will list every resource you read.
Books: Last name of author, first name. Title. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication date.
Journal/Magazine Article: Last name of author, first name. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal/Magazine, day month year, pages.
Website: Editor or author. “Name of Page.” Name of Site. Publisher or publishing organization, date of creation, URL or DOI. Accessed day month year. [this last piece is the day you viewed it to take notes]
Image from a website (including a painting, sculpture, or photograph): Artist’s name, Work of Art, the date of creation, the institution and city where the work is housed. Name of website, URL. Date accessed. (If the image is only housed on the web follow directions for a website.)
For more examples, see OWL: Formatting and Style Guide or see Ms. J.
There are many methods for organizing notes. Three of the most common are:
Note Cards (virtual or paper): Use index cards, or Google Keep. Put one note or idea on each card, always recording the number of the source and the page number of the idea on the same card. Make sure you copy quotations accurately and put quotation marks, and add ideas of your own in a clearly marked way (use italics, or a different color pen, or write “me: blah blah blah”). You could also assign labels to each card, or change the color to help you organize the cards. You can then shuffle the cards around to decide the order of your paper – it’s important to combine ideas from different sources with your own analysis or observations in a way that makes sense for the paper. Note: If you plan to use Google Keep for several projects, it does not have a folder option. Either label all the notes for one project the same, or assign each project a different color.
Table (virtual or paper): Make a table with columns for Source, Page Number, Note/Quote, My Ideas. Put one idea or note in each row. You can color code rows by type of idea or subject matter if it seems it would help. You can then number the rows in the order you want to use them, or cut them into strips and physically reorganize them.
Note Taking Sheets (virtual or paper) – Best for when you know what each section of your paper is going to be. Make one sheet per section, record one idea per line noting the source and page numbers. See an example here.
As you are writing your paper, every time you use a note from a source you put parentheses after the last sentence of that idea. In general, you’ll put the author’s last name and the page number inside the parentheses. See the OWL MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics for specifics.
WORKS CITED and BIBLIOGRAPHY
Your job in a works cited page and bibliography is to provide information about each source so that someone reading your paper could find the exact item you used. The works cited page lists sources you cite in your paper, the bibliography is a list of every source you consulted. You should have kept track of your sources in a Google Doc. See the OWL: Formatting and Style Guide for specifics on formatting, if you’re having trouble come see Ms. J. If you’ve lost the details of your sources, or didn’t keep careful track, come see Ms. J – she may be able to help you find the information you need.
Check out our page on Plagiarism!