Posted in Research Org

How to organize your research notes part 1

I found myself coming across this issue with Autism Awareness Month releasing a bundle of medical journal articles for free! Now with all this information to sort through so I thought I may need to do some research into how to sort out my research…. which seems contradictory because that’s more information to sort.

So first up is an article from the clever research that came up with this plan to organizing research.

In the beginning…

  • Do some preliminary reading. This helps you get a sense of the overall topic before getting into the “heavy” research.
  • Research with your final product in mind. Think about what “subheadings” or chucks you may want to write about (even though you don’t have all the information yet)
    • If you need help with identifying topic chunks, you could try Writing a Concept Map.
  • Keep a journal/write a research plan. Use this to keep track of what databases you’ve tried, what keywords you’ve used, what didn’t go well, your thoughts and ideas…. ((that is an interesting thought on new things I could post to this blog, or my evernote… more about that soon :)))


So once you start finding good stuff…

  • Organize by “subheading” or chunk. There is a lot of different ways to do this:
    • Write a working outline: what will each subheading or part of your essay include? What will your arguments be? What sources support that point?
    • Ignore the interesting-but-not-useful stuff: what are your essay’s subheadings? What is your argument? Read for that information, make notes on that information, and then throw everything else out.
    • Colour code: Assign a different colour to each subheading. Then use highlights, post-its, tabs, or font colour to organize your notes and articles.
    • Create different folders on your computer or different Word files for each subheading. Of if you like to print everything else, have a different folder or binder tab on each subheading. The bottom line is: keep related things together.
    • Chronologically organize within each chunk. Each article/book may have been influenced by those that preceded it; even in a very short time frame and you may find overarching themes or arguments that you may not have noticed otherwise.
  • Write notes in your own words, on why your sources are helpful. There were different ideas for how to do this. It’s important to also note that these techniques can be done by hand or on a computer!
    • Use cue cards: with the citation at the top (including page numbers!), write down the general ideas or concepts you want to use from that source. You may have more than one cue card for each source, if you’re organizing your notes by subheading.
    • Create annotations: again with the citation at the top (and, of course, with the page numbers!), create a summary for each article/book you want to use. Include the key parts/arguments/quotes that you liked from that source.
    • Write your notes in your own words: why is the source helpful for your essay? how does it support your thesis? Say it regular language in your research notes, rather than writing out word-for-word what the book says.
  • Saves your research. You won’t find it again.
    • Email your search results to yourself, print them, write them down by hand, use RefWorks/Zotero… anything but having to replicate your searches!
    • Create a working bibliography: add resources that you want to use this bibliography as you research.


So first up lets look at Zotero (this is the first time of me using it myself so this will be my first use impression, later on if I continue using it I will talk about it again :))

The version I will be using is the free version. I haven’t been able to find so far how much storage space this gives me.


There is also the option to have it within firefox or as a windows download. Since I use chrome I will be using the Windows version with the chrome browser extension.


This is what the Zotero interface looks like before you add anything to it. I’m going to take a look at the quick start guide.


So far it feels like it works like a program where you would enter information into a form which would create this and then you can add notes to relate it to other things below it. It seems really useful πŸ™‚ I will go into it further and show you what happens when you try to add something.


Within the Add part you can choose between different types, much like how you would making a bibliography in word πŸ™‚


Clicking on more gives you a more extensive list of items that you can add. I’ll be selecting Journal article as I’m adding in one of the Journal articles I got from the Autism Week freebies.


When you’ve made your choice this form will appear where you can add information about the Journal that you’ve found, notes about this Journal, tags and what things that you’ve already given information about that it is related to. So far from the look of what this can do. I think it will be really useful for information organization πŸ™‚

So lets move onto the plug in it gave google chrome and what that does.

So I figured out when I click the plug in button it will only show a quick minute of that its done something, but head back into your Zotero program and you’ll see this


It inserts information about the web page straight into the program and the dates and time when you accessed it. πŸ˜€ wow so far I really do like this. It will work well alongside my Evernote.

I have mentioned Evernote a lot in this post but I will discuss that next time as at first glance the program can seem very easy to use which is good πŸ™‚ but it has so many features that are useful when you are using websites for your research needs.

Here’s where you can download ZoteroΒ 



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