Tips for Organized Note-Taking, Studying and Quickly Citing Research

Read the tips below to keep yourself organized, take effective notes and write high quality papers with correct citations and reference lists! Or watch the video to see a demo!

Keeping Yourself Organized:

  • High school students: create a folder for a content area (e.g. German) and then create subfolders of the individual courses you take within it (e.g. German 1, German 2, etc.).
  • Undergraduate and graduate students: create a program folder (e.g. MSEd Program or Ed.D. Program) and then create subfolders for individual courses (e.g. Action Research for Educators).
  • Within the course folders, use a Google Doc to take notes on each resource. The fewer the number of Docs, the better--you'll want to be able to quick-search your notes with CTRL+F or CMD+F later on and doing that across multiple documents will be problematic!

Taking Effective Notes:

  • Always put the full reference list citation for a resource directly above your notes for that resource.
  • If you direct-quote a textbook, record the page number in your notes right then and there when you notice it and write it down next to the quote itself.
  • Feel free to include additional links, videos, images or anything else that will jog your memory later or be useful when aligning your notes with an assessment--just make sure to create the reference list citation for it right away and include it in the notes!

Writing Papers:

  • Use a blank template for formal papers that already has your style guide requirements in place. Copy the template every time you write a new paper and start with that.
  • When you go to write your paper later on, open your notes document and keep it in a tab next to your paper-in-progress. As you develop each paragraph about a particular topic (e.g. "digital natives"), use CTRL+F/CMD+F to search that term in your notes. All the references you made about that term will pop up, highlighted. That will enable you to quickly grab the in-text citation you need for that section.
  • Every time you use an in-text citation, copy and paste the reference list citation from your notes document and immediately start creating a Reference List in progress at the end of your paper. Don't wait until after you finish your paper to do this--create it as you go!


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