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English Center CoordinatorChristopher Heuer, Professor EnglishChristopher.Heuer@gallaudet.edu
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When you are faced with starting a research paper, the most important part of researching and beginning to write is ORGANIZING the information and your thoughts. If you are not organized, it will take considerably more time to write the paper. To make it easy on yourself, you can use an index card system as you gather information. With this method, you categorize the information you find by topic. For each topic, you could have any number of cards from several different sources. Later, as you write your paper, each card topic becomes a body paragraph (supporting idea) in your paper.
As you find interesting facts about your topic during your research, you should write them down. Each sentence or idea that you find should be paraphrased (summarized in your own words), and written on a card. In order to keep your ideas in order, and to remember where you found the ideas, there are four items that you should include on the index card, as you will see below.
Here is a sample card:
Once you have written the information down on the note cards, you only need to go back and organize your cards by topic. Group together all the cards that have the same topic (i.e. all the cards titled: "Hughes' Poetry" should be together). When you finish, you should have your cards in piles, one topic per pile. You can have any number of piles and any number of cards in each pile. The length and detail of your paper will determine how many piles and cards you have.
Your piles may look like:
Once you have separated your cards into piles, each topic pile should become a body paragraph in your paper. That is the key to this system. If every topic directly supports your thesis statement, then each topic pile should become a supporting idea, body paragraph, or part of a paragraph in your paper.
But before you actually begin writing, you should make an outline of the order you want to present these topics in your paper. (For help making an outline, see the English Works web page on Pre-writing and Outlines). Once the outline is complete, use your note cards as guides and begin writing. For further help on writing a research paper, refer to the English Works! web page Process of Doing a Research Paper, Guide to Developing Thesis Statements, and/or Guide to Writing Introductions and Conclusions.
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