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How to organize a list of sources for a research paper

Some students may ask: when should a plan be put together for sources and research? Or when should I create my outline?

The answer is: as soon as possible.

The earlier you start the planning process, the better off you will be. It is often a big mistake to try and do all of your research and your note taking before you even have an outline. Naturally you will need to weigh some evidence and do a bit of reading before you plan, but not all of it. As you begin rudimentary reviews of the available research you should shape a potential argument in your head, then you can begin to formalize your thoughts in a plan or outline

You will find your reading and research to be much more effective if you have an idea of the direction your argument will go before you start. Why? Because then you can search for evidence that supports the points you have in your outline. As you begin to gather your evidence, pay particular attention to the points that are still lacking in evidence and use those points to guide your research the next day. Remember that as you critically evaluate the evidence you uncover, you may have to modify your plan a bit.

At this point you need to start taking effective notes.

But how?

Mind mapping.

Mind mapping is defined by five main characteristics. The first characteristic is the central idea. This can be a subject, a topic sentence, or a general focus which is represented by a central image. From this main image are branches. These branches radiate from the center and encompass the main themes. The branches are drawn from the main idea with a line and are represented by a keyword on each or a key image drawn on each. A key word or phrase can even be drawn on the line which branches from the center. From there, the branches can be divided into twigs. The twigs represent topics which are of lesser importance. During this process a nodal structure is created by the branches. Overall, mind mapping is a tool which stimulates and challenges the brain, allowing it to function in a much freer capacity.

Using this method of note taking will ensure your argument is well formed and clearly presented within the confines of your assignment. It will help you to better research and find evidence to support every claim.

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