Proper Research Notecards Save Time

Basically, research notecards have information that a young scholar has taken from a source about a topic, but written properly these notecards will serve as an outline, memory device, and first draft of the research paper. These are big time savers.

Here's a sample index card below with numbers indicating where information should be positioned: 

[1]                                                   [4] 

[2]                            [3 ]                  [5]






In position 1 write the topic of the notecard. Do not, however, have your teen write ocean if that is the topic of her research paper. Why?

Because it doesn't help with writing the subtopics and subheadings of her outline. 

Think about the way the notecard will look if she writes ocean 100 times on her notecards. Let's assume we already have the Big Picture that the topic is the ocean.

In position 2 write the subtopic of the information on the notecard. 

Work on finding the smaller subtopics. Since she may have an idea of what type of information she's looking for, writing a smaller topic and subtopic will be more useful. 

When it comes time to organize her paragraphs, it will be easier to arrange them in a logical, sequential order. She doesn't want to have to read every sentence she's written on every one of her research notecards just to figure out how to arrange them for her paper. 

Here are some examples: 

Flowers -- Lily Family -- Dailias

African Mammals -- Cats -- Lions

Ocean - Plant Life - Algae

Ocean - Animals - Fish

Ocean - Mammals - Dolphins

Photo of Brown Smoothhound Shark

by Diana Boles

In position 3 write ONE of three possible words: Summary, Paraphrase, or Quotation.

First, the reason why. 

Because your teen has many balls to juggle in writing the research paper, she will want the research notecards to do as much work remembering as many details as possible.  

Once, she's written 100 to 150 notecards after having read six or seven sources and perhaps hundreds of pages trying to find what she needs, she won't remember what information came from where or how.

The research notecards will remember for her. 

By writing Summary, Paraphrase, or Quotation  in the center of the index card, she will know how in-depth her notecard is. 

The Summary research notecards cover  a wide range of information. Your teen will write this to provide a broad overview of her subject. She could write a half paragraph of perhaps 25 words or longer.

 For example, if she writes Summary, she knows that the sentence is a general overview of information she gathered from possibly five to 15 pages, maybe even a chapter.

She will remember this because she has written the page numbers of her source in position 5. Even though summary research notecards are written in her own words, she must give proper credit in the research paper to avoid plagiarism. 

The Paraphrase research notecards are ones where the student rewrites a small amount of information in her own words. It covers a fewer number of pages, maybe only a paragraph.

Often, the writer has read something that relates exactly to her thesis statement and 

one of its parts, so she has paraphrased it, making it clearer for her reader to understand.  

As always, this note too must be given proper credit in the research paper to avoid plagiarism. 

Quotation research notecards are just that. They are quotes. A quote is simply a copied, word-for-word sentence or phrase  from the book, article, or website that is the source. 

Why Quote?

Because the information is

  • really stated well, 
  • it will add interest to her paper, or 
  • it's a difficult concept or detailed information 
  • or it's controversial and she wants to make sure the author is represented accurately. 

In a 1,000-word research paper, she will probably not have more than seven or eight of them, placed throughout her paper.

Quotes are "straight from the horse's mouth" so to speak. A researcher must treat these words with respect and be accurate.

The world depends on accurate use of quotation marks. There are legal battles fought over the exact words a person states. Educated people depend on accuracy to draw conclusions and to make decisions based on what people have stated. Quotations are serious business. 

Here are some examples: 

  • "I am not a crook." --former president Richard Nixon
  • "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!"  -- Patrick Henry, excerpted from the Speech to the Virginia Convention.
  • "Houston, we have a problem." - Tom Hanks as Cmdr. Lovell in Apollo 13

You see, quotes preserve a writer's integrity. If the writer might not believe the interviewee, then, she uses quotes. That way she is simply reporting the information, not necessarily believing it.

Research Sources and Page Numbers

In position 4 of your teen's research notecards, she will write the Roman numeral of her source card and the number of the card. For example, in the notecard to the right, this is the 16th notecard  from her 4th source.

In position 5 she'll write the page number from the source, which is page 237.

Now for a short quiz: 

What will she NOT write in position 3 of this card?

A. Summary

B. Paraphrase

C. Quotation

Answer: A. It won't be Summary. Because if it were, the pages numbers in position 5 would look something like   ps. 235-241.

                                            [4]       IV-16

                                            [5]      p 237





See those symbols above? [ ] They are called brackets.

They are used to let the reader(you) know that the writer(me) put them in to enclose an example , not that the reader should use them.

Learn more in the Grammar section below. 

Writing Research Notecards

Finally! Now that the card is set up, It's time to write the actual sentences and paragraphs in position 6 of your research notecards. 

The best guideline to remember is always write complete sentences, using correct punctuation and grammar.

It will be less stressful on your teen to write her research notecards correctly now. Let's say she works in two-hour study sessioins. If she writes complete sentences, she will have her paper mostly written when she has to write her rough draft.

That's much better  than having to arrange a bunch of random notes she started writing a month ago. 

Grammar Review

The Importance of Brackets:

Let's say a political candidate wrote a response to a question submitted by a voter's group. The group copies the reply verbatim, but there is a misspelled word. 

The group will put brackets around the misspelled word to let the reader know that the candidate, and not the group, made the error. 

Why is this important?

For RESPECT. The group will want the public to know that it wasn't careless and misspelled a word. 

A final word on Quotation Marks.

There's an old movie titled My Girl Friday that stars Cary Grant. He's a newspaper reporter and there's a external conflict over an escaped convict. The police chief is one of the characters, and there's a brief dialogue that goes something like this:

Cary Grant (talking to the sheriff):  No, we wouldn't think that you're trying to kill him. After all, everyone one knows your campaign slogan. You're the "honest" sheriff.

Sheriff: Yeah, yeah, I know. That's what you write, but not without those quotation marks. 

The punctuation marks themselves have to be accurate. As I stated on another page, Purdue University has an Online Writing Lab that is very good. Use the link to review the proper placement and position of quotation marks. 

To review Roman numerals, visit this site. However, you can use letters A through Z on your bibliography source cards and position 4 if you'd like. 

I'm Happy To Answer Questions?

Whenever I call my internet service provider and ask a question about some technical problem, her response is: "Have you checked the  Wan$#^*)protocol%_Sid#_?  

Of course, my response is the What?

The thing is that even though I may hear the words, it doesn't mean I understand.

The same is true of the research paper. Just because I think I've explained it clearly, doesn't mean that one fully understands.

Therefore, if you have a question, I'll be happy to walk you through it. Simply fill in the contact form below and I'll get back to you personally. Usually before 72 hours; ideally, much sooner. 

Now that you're finished reading about research notecards. you can return to the main research page. Thank you. 

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