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Reading Well and Taking Research Notes

How to read critically and well and take good research notes. Includes information about tools that can help you do this effectively on your computer or mobile device.

The Basics

Your professor may have a preferred citation style. Ask at the Research/IT desk or the Writing Center if you need help following a specific style. But if there's no preferred style, here's a flexible and simple one that you can use. It's the Chicago Manual of Style Author/Date system.

As you're writing:

When you refer to someone else's words or ideas, include a citation at the end of the sentence that has the author's last name, the date, and a page number or page numbers, all enclosed in parentheses. So, for example, (Weiss 2008, 15). This refers to the 15th page of Weiss's book, the full entry for which is included at the end of the paper in a Reference List.

The Reference List:

When you make your bibliography it should be alphabetical by author last name, and it should use a "hanging indent" so that the first line lines up with the left-hand margin but the second and subsequent lines are indented half an inch (which I can't do here in this guide). The whole bibliography should be double spaced with no extra space between entries.

An Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is made up of a bibliographic reference (like the examples to the right) followed by a brief description (called an annotation) of the content and importance of the work. The annotation begins one line down from the reference, and it's best to press the Shift key and the Return key together so that it behaves as if the entire thing is one paragraph. (See this example)

Citations are Cool!