Organizing your research can make the research paper writing process easier. Nowadays, you may keep track of your research electronically through your word processing program, an electronic spreadsheet or other means. An older method is to use 3-by-5-inch bibliography and note cards to organize the sources you find and the information in them. Your teacher may assign these cards to teach you how to do research and cite your sources.
The bibliography card includes the citation information, which you will later use to create your research paper’s bibliography, or Works Cited page. Create a new bibliography card each time you find a new source. Write the author’s last name, followed by a comma and first name, and then the title. If the source has no author, start with the title. Lastly, add publication information, such as the city of publication and the publisher of a book or the journal’s name, volume and issue. For example, to cite a book in MLA Style, use the following format: Author, Name. Title of book (italicized). City: Publisher, Year of Publication.
Location and Summary
The front of the bibliography card should also include the location of the source. For library sources, write the name of the library and the call number. If you found the source online, write the URL. This brief location information should help you easily find the source again. Then, on the back of the bibliography card, write a brief summary about the source so that you remember why you chose that source for your research paper.
Note Cards and Organization
The bibliography card also helps you organize your notes from the source on the note cards. Each note card includes one fact from the source. It may be a quotation, a paraphrase or a summary. To organize and keep track of your research, write a letter on each bibliography card, and then, on each note card for that source, write the same letter and a number. For example, if the bibliography card is "A," then the first note card is "A1," and the second is "A2."
Final Tips and Advice
Instead of 3-by-5-inch cards, you could also choose 4-by-6-inch cards if you need more room, but always use the same size for both the bibliography and note cards so you can keep them together more easily. You could also use different colors for different types of sources or information. Write clearly and neatly so you can read the information long after you have written it. Mistakes can be costly, so proofread each card. For example, an error in the bibliographic information can cause you to make a mistake on the Works Cited page.