top of page

Taking Notes

Taking notes while you read your sources is an important way to keep track of your questions, thoughts and reactions. 

These are two templates from the Empire State Information Skills Benchmarks you might use to take notes.  Templates for Taking Notes has printable PDF and editable Word files.

Tips for Taking Notes

There are different strategies for taking notes during early and later research stages.

Early Research Strategies (search and skim)

  • Search the databases

  • Skim the results to see which results are most helpful

  • Search sources looking for abstracts, headings, subheadings related to your research. When was it published? Does it include resources? Who is the author and is she an expert on your topic?

  • Skim the source looking at abstracts, summaries, conclusions. This will give you a quick snapshot of the text's key ideas.

  • Take notes to keep track of your sources and how you want to use them.


  • Keep your research organized--consider emailing articles to yourself, downloading the article in PDF format, etc.

  • Save the citation, perhaps in a Google Doc, so you can find it and cite it later.

  • Write short annotations of what each source seems to cover, main idea, etc. This will help you keep track of your sources.

Later Research Strategies

  • Select the sections or pages you want to read more closely. Write them down in your notes as your "to do" list.

  • Study and annotate the text (read for understanding--write down main idea summaries in the margins, underline keywords, circle words or phrases you don't understand and look them up if necessary)

  • Ask questions: does the author give you answer to your research questions? What is unique about this author's perspective? Do you see connections or overlaps with other texts?


  • Record ideas in your own words. Only copy word-for-word if the wording is unique or you want to capture a key term.

  • Record the page and/or paragraph number where your ideas came from. This will help with in-text citations later!

  • Consider color coding your notes so you see patterns (ex. yellow = sources that support my my thesis) 

Technology for Taking Notes

Organizing your notes: Evernote

Keeping track of your notes is almost as important as doing the research! You might read a source and decide weeks or months later that it is something important in your work. Evernote is one (free) resource you might want to use to keep your notes organized. Evernote Website. Here is a page of Evernote instructions about how to get started.

bottom of page