Notes on Notes

First, I have tried every way there is to take notes. I have used highlighters, multiple highlighters, paraphrased, copied, made notecards, etc. I know what I think is the most useful way to take notes.

How to take notes:

Copy and paste short quotes. Identify the work after each quote. I would use the in-text citation style. An example would be (Davis 31).

So, a note might look like this:

“Those are some advantages that I see in using fairy tales to introduce literary analysis.  Some of my colleagues have asked me if I am “teaching down” to my students when I introduce literature through fairy tales. Using fairy tales is not patronizing” (Davis 47).

Why cite it that way?

The quotations let me remember it is an exact quote. The person’s name and the page number (if there was a page number), lets me know where I got it.

If there is NOT a page number, as there frequently is not on the Opposing Viewpoints articles, you will need to number the paragraphs in each article and then your citation would look like this: (Name para. 5).

Why quotes only?

Taking notes in quotations is, in my opinion, the best way to take notes. Then you know exactly what the article said.

If you only paraphrase in your notes, then when you go back to write your paper you might paraphrase the notes back into the original. Then you are citing the original without quoting it and that is plagiarism.

Why cite after each quote?

Also, you want to write the citation after each quote because otherwise, when you start moving the quotes around to create your paper, you won’t remember what source they were from. (Been there, done that. Learn from my mistakes.)

You can look at the Purdue OWL for help:

How many quotes do I need?

You need as many quotes as you need notes. (I know that is not particularly helpful.)

A rough estimate of quotes is you will need ten quotes’ worth of information for each page. For the compare/contrast paper, that means you need thirty quotes. Now, that is not as bad as it seems, because you have six sources. That means you need about five quotes from each source.

Don’t be upset if you end up with more than thirty notes. The research paper will also use some of that same information, if it is for the side you agree with, so it is better to have too many notes than too few.

How do I organize my notes?

At first, you should organize your notes by your source. Just take them one after the other. You can even copy and paste on most of your sources, so actually quoting isn’t difficult at all.

Later you will reorganize the notes by topic. Three sources’ worth will be on one side and three will be on the other. Then you will organize the notes even more by arguments.


If aliens had come to Earth and they were sitting overhead in their spaceships and they were asking us for a treaty of peace and for 1/10th of our college age students to come study their technology, half of the folks would be saying yes and the other half would be saying no.

“We should not agree to a suit for a treaty when we do not know what these aliens want with us. Perhaps a treaty with them will limit our ability to work with other aliens out there, else why are they suing for peace when no war has discussed?” (Patois 4).

“A treaty of peace requires that two entities be at war previous to the treaty. We have not been engaged in a war with the aliens. We cannot have been at war with the aliens, since we did not even know they existed” (Gutierez  7).

“Whenever one party asks another party for peace, there is usually a declaration of war involved. We have not declared war. In addition, it is usually the party which requests peace which is losing. How can the aliens be losing a war we aren’t fighting? There is something else going on in this request” (Johnsen).

Note: Johnsen’s work has no page numbers because it was from Opposing Viewpoints and did not have page numbers.

“Peace is a concept that no one can understand; how can we agree to a peace with aliens when we are not yet at peace with ourselves?” (“Radical” 4).

Note: “Radical” is the beginning of an article without an author.

“Peace is safe and secure. The aliens have come to our planet and all they are asking is that we not wage war on them. Since we disbanded the space program in 2012, I cannot see how we could wage war on them. Therefore, we should sign the peace treaty” (Mendez 3).

“A treaty of peace is a reasonable request. We do not desire to be at war with the aliens, thus, do we not want peace with them?” (Kretzinwizki).

“For the small ‘price’ of a peace treaty, we will have the opportunity to learn from the aliens. No one would pass that up” (Barone para. 18).

Note: Barone’s work was on the internet and had paragraph numbering. Because it did, I can cite the paragraph.

“Peace is something we want. Of course the aliens want it too” (Barone para. 19).

“When peace is in question, the questions should revolve around how to secure peace. The aliens have told us how we might secure peace with them and the answer is to sign a peace treaty” (Barone  para. 15).

Note: You may have more than one note from the same source.

How to make the notes more useful:

You should put your quoted notes on notecards.

Why notecards?

Notecards can be shuffled. They can be put in stacks. They can be reorganized.

When you know what you want to do with your paper, you can stack the notes for each point in a separate stack. Then you can see from the stacks which points have sufficient notes and which need more work.

If you have a stack with too many notes, you can see if that argument can be divided into two.

So, for example, if I had lots of notes on why we should accept a peace treaty, I could divide that up into reasons. One: Aliens have better technology. Two: We could learn from them and then we would have better technology. Three: They could kill us if we don’t give them a peace treaty. So then I would have three paragraphs on why we should accept a peace treaty instead of just one. That’s fine. It strengthens the argument for signing the peace treaty.

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