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University Writing Center
July 30, 2014

Organizing your Research

Historical research can quickly become overwhelming if it is not organized for inclusion in your paper and for convenient review and retrieval. The traditional organizational method is an annotated bibliography. The increased use of digital research has lead to another organizational strategy, reading notes.

 Annotated Bibliography Cards traditionally use 3 by 5 cards to provide basic information on specific sources. The full citation information is written across the top of the card. A twenty-five to fifty word summary of the article is included. Detailed annotated bibliographies might include specific page numbers where important information can be found. Annotation cards are a convenient means of organizing sources by type and facilitating easy review of hard copy texts in the library. The briefness of summaries and citations can limit their usability. 

Reading Notes have come become a common means for organizing digital texts. Though usually files on a computer rather than 3 by 5 cards, reading notes include the same citation information. Often, in reading notes, rather than annotations, reading notes contain key passages typed into the notes or downloaded from digital documents accompanied by brief notes explaining how these passages might contribute to the paper. Care should be taken when using reading notes to ALWAYS place quotation marks around passages from sources so there is not confusion later about whether material on the notes comes directly from the source or is commentary. Inadvertent plagiarism is an ongoing danger with reading notes. 

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