After you have evaluated the various resources on your topic, begin reading the information and take notes on what you read. Eventually you will organize these notes to create the structure of your report. Historically, students have taken notes on index cards that they later use to organize the structure of their reports. More recently, however, students are using computers to take notes that they later cut and paste into the report document.
There are three basic ways to take notes when researching a topic. In each case, you will want to write down the specifics about where you found the information as well as the corresponding page numbers so that you can cite the author appropriately. Good records about references and citations help to prevent plagiarizing information.
- Summarize: when you summarize information, you condense a lengthy description or argument into a few sentences so that you communicate only the main ideas.
- Paraphrase: when you paraphrase information, you explain someone else's ideas in your own words without condensing it substantially.
- Direct Quote: when you quote someone directly, you use his or her exact words. Typically, direct quotes are used when you feel the original author's exact words are important.