Skip to content

How To Do Research Paper Notecards

It is useful to take notes on index cards because it gives you the flexibility to change the order of your notes and group them together easily. You can buy a few packages of 3x5 or 5x7 index cards at most drugstores or stationery stores.

1. Write the subtopic heading of the note at the top of each note card. (see Tip Sheet 11: Creating Subtopic Headings)

2. Write only one main point on a note card

3. Only write information directly related to your Statement of Purpose. (see Tip Sheet 9: Writing a Statement of Purpose)

4. Write only essential words, abbreviate when possible.

5. Be accurate: double check direct quotes and statistics.

6. Identify direct quotes with quotation marks and the person's name.

7. Bracket your own words [ ] when you add them into a quote.

8. Use ellipsis points (...) where you leave out non-essential words from a quote.

9. Distinguish between 'fact' and 'opinion'.

10. Include the source's number on the card (see Tip Sheet 4: Making Source Cards)

11. Write the page number of the source after the note.

12. Use the word 'over' to indicate information on the back of the card.

Sample note card:


Writing series

Organizing research with note cards

The "Note Card System" can be very useful
when it comes to organizing information for a term paper or even a short two or three page paper.

By using this system, you create note cards from blank 3x5 or 5x7 index cards that you fill with information pertinent to the subject that you are researching.  The organization of the information can readily be adapted to use with word processing...

  • In the upper left corner of the card, "code" the topic of your paper, and where in the outline it may fall

  • In the upper right corner, place the author's name and/or title and page number

  • In the body of the card, enter one single fact or thought you'd like to include in your paper

Make sure the information is expressed in your own words,
unless it is a quotation;
Use good sentence structure:
this will save you time when you start to write the paper

  • Organize the cards to coincide with the outline of your paper

  • Write the term paper following this sequence
    Use topical, concluding, and transitional sentences to link the information on the cards

  • Keep a separate set of cards
    with the complete information of books, magazines, films, etc. These will be used for entering footnotes and endnotes, and when compiling the bibliography

Seven stages of writing assignments:

Index | Develop your topic (1) | Identify your audience (2) |
Research (3) | Research with notecards (3a) | Prewrite (4) |
Draft/write (5) | Revise (6) | Proofread (7)

Reading and research series

Reading critically | Prereading strategies | SQ3R reading method |
KWL reading method | Marking & underlining | Reading difficult material | Interpretive reading | Reading essays | Reading fiction | Narrator/character types |
Speed and comprehension | Researching on the Internet | Evaluating websites |
Organizing research: computers | Organizing research: note cards