How to Take Notes Using Index Cards for an APA Formatted Paper

APA style is an academic paper format most often used for research papers in the social sciences. Its guidelines cover paper margins, spacing, citations both in-text and following the end of the paper and the format of the title page. When taking notes for writing such a paper, it is important to keep organized. Since most information will come from research, any uncited fact may be challenged as plagiarism. Index cards are a great way to keep citations straight.

Step 1

Write the citation of each article, book, filmstrip or other primary material on one index card. For a book, include the title, the author, the year of publication, the publisher and its location. For an article, include the name of the journal or magazine and the page numbers on which it appears in addition to the title and author. For online resources, include the date you retrieved the information, the name of the website and the exact URL of the article. Assign the index card a number. Each source should have its own number.

Step 2

Write any quotes or chunks of information from that source on the other side of the corresponding card. Accompany all exact quotes with a page number. Be sure to write the source number on the index card so you do not lose track of which source the information came from.

Step 3

If you have extensive notes from the same source, rubber band or paper clip the corresponding cards.

Step 4

When writing the paper, refer to the source number on the cards for your in-text citations. Then, refer to the source cards for the complete reference for the bibliography.


Larger index cards hold more notes, and consider color coding (using highlighters or even different-colored index cards) for extensive research.


Personal interviews should only be cited in-text, not in the reference list. Keep track of the exact date when conducting a personal interview.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber bands or paper clips (optional)
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