When writing an essay that includes a lot of research, it’s hard to keep all of the information straight! Here’s an easy way to save time and stay organized when writing that I learned from my English 102 professor, James Holsinger; I like to call it “The Note Card Method.”
While doing your research, write down each summary, paraphrase, direct quotation, and citation (as it will appear on the Works Cited Page, i.e. in MLA, APA, or other format) on separate note cards. It helps to color-code (i.e. black ink for summary, blue for paraphrase, green for direct quote, and red for citation) and/or to label at the top of the card what sort of material it is (i.e. “Summary,” “Direct Quote,” etc). Be sure to put the page number—if there is one—on which you found the information at the bottom of the note card; this will save you time with your in-text citations.
Label each card with a source number. For example, if you have a summary and direct quotation from a certain textbook, label the summary card, direct quotation card, and citation card with number 1 in one of the top corners. For all material from the next source, label with number 2, for all material from the next source, label with number 3, etc.
Put your citation cards in the order that it will appear on your Works Cited page, and simply type it out. Your Works Cited page is done!
Next, it’s time to organize the information you found. Look at all of your materials: summaries, paraphrases, and direct quotations. Group cards of similar topics together; these will go together in paragraphs of your essay. Decide in what order to present these topics, and put the groups of cards in that order.
Now, all you have to do is fill in with your own writing! You already have the information from your sources in the correct order, and since they’re numbered by source, in-text citation will be fast and easy.
I hope this technique helps you as much as it’s helped me! Good luck with your research papers!