Once you have determined you have found a good source, learning how to take good notes is an essential skill. There are three types of notes and several methods to record them.

Types of Notes

When you take notes, be careful not to plagiarize an author's words or ideas. If you find information that addresses your research questions, use quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing to record it. Unless something is considered common knowledge, you must credit authors when using their ideas in your writing.

What is the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing?
Let's say that a student is doing research about childhood obesity, and one of his information needs is understanding what contributes to the problem. Glance over the last two paragraphs of "America's Epidemic of Youth Obesity", an opinion piece from The New York Times (November 29, 2002), and keep it in mind as you read these examples of different ways to record information.

  • Quoting

Quote from an author to emphasize a key point or the language used. Quotations match the source document word for word, must be enclosed in quotation marks, and must be attributed to the original author. Use quotes sparingly.

"In many low-income minority neighborhoods, fried carryout is a cinch to find, but affordable fresh produce and nutritious food are not," The New York Times editorial states.

  • Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is putting the ideas of another person into your own words using your own sentence structure. A paraphrase simplifies a selection; it does not necessarily shorten it. Paraphrased material must also be attributed to the original source.

Youth obesity is caused by more factors than just genetics. One factor is how little exercise children get, especially because of watching more television and spending more time on the computer. Also, now it is common for both parents in two-parent families to work, so more families eat fast food which comes in large, high-calorie portions. Another factor is that America's poor often can only afford cheap, high-calorie food instead of the more expensive fresh and nutritious options. That is often combined with a lack of access to safe places to play and exercise (The New York Times).

  • Summarizing

To summarize, you must put the main thoughts or ideas into your own words, but it is only necessary to include the "main points." Summarizing cuts a selection down to about one-third of its original length. Its purpose is to shorten a passage without sacrificing its basic meaning. Once again, it is necessary to attribute the ideas to the original source:

According to The New York Times editorial, America's youth lead a more sedentary life, eat more fast food - sometimes because their families cannot afford more nutritious options, and have fewer places to play. These factors combine with genetics to cause an obesity problem.

Paraphrased material is often somewhat shorter than the original, and summarized material usually significantly shorter.

Notetaking Methods
There are several methods to record the information you find.  Click on these links to learn about:

  • Cornell notes (This is typically used to record classroom lecture notes, but it can be adapted for research notes.)
  • Note cards
  • Note papers
  • Research grid
  • Write It Down (eBook that shows several notetaking methods, including highlighting, sticky notes, tables/grid, visual notetaking, and Venn diagrams)

Write It Down



Take a look at these two examples of how to paraphrase, summarize, or quote from a text:

PE / Wellness article

Science article

Now, try your skill with one or more of these:

English article

Literature article

Science article

Social Studies article


Next => Now that you have found quality information, it is time to go to the next step of the OSLIS research process: Create.

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