Gathering Information

Simple Summary:
1. Find something significant, interesting, or controversial
that you'd like to explain to a reader or
convince a reader about your viewpoint.
2. In a text, find a narrow quote or a summary of your idea
that can be explained to prove your point.
3. Teachers: Pick an important paragraph
in your textbook and assign them for each one
(or give a choice of a number of important paragraphs).

Finding Theme Topics and Gathering Information

     1. Go to Critical works, Plot Summaries, Articles, Web
         Sites, Books,
and Databases and take general notes,
listing major ideas, themes, types of characters, or
         other distinguishing characteristics of the author's
         writing, or of the subject that you wish to address.

      What do others have to say about your author or topic?

       –You don't have to read whole articles.
          Skim through them, looking for specific references to your
          topic, to things that this author usually does, or to ideas
          which the author normally uses.

       –Your purpose is merely to gather ideas, not to formally
          begin writing your paper. Relax and enjoy roaming through
          many sources - just to find good ideas to write about.

     2. For literary papers only, which will involve writing papers
          about actual literary works, read literary critical sources
          and take more detailed notes, extracting from these
          sources good quotes which refer to specific ideas that
          can be found in the author's works.

        –Put each quote, using the "notepage" format [see
          below], on a separate sheet of paper, including
          necessary bibliographical information. These may be
          used in your paper, though your purpose at this stage
          is to develop ideas which can be used in your paper.

     3.  Make an easily readable list of possible ideas or topics,
          keeping it next to you and referring to it frequently as
          you continue to do your research.

     4. Tentatively decide which ideas would work best in your
         paper. Especially look for progression of ideas,
         behavior, etc.,
so that you can end with the most
         significant idea - after working to the end in logical steps.

     5. While doing extensive reading in the author's works
          or, for nonliterary papers, in your sources, create
Andrews' Note cards," which we will call "notepages,"
          on regular 8   by 11" notebook paper, copying quotes
          that give specific detailed examples of the ideas that
          you have chosen to emphasize.

          A. Only have one example per page and
              use only the front
of a page - never the back.
              Go to a new piece of paper when you reach the bottom.
              Following this suggestion with judicious use of
              binding clips will make your individual pieces of
              paper will much more manageable when you start
              putting the final paper together.

          B. Write the idea in the upper right hand corner so that
               you will later be able to sort your examples by idea.

          C. Put bibliographical information at the top center of the
               notebook paper for your citations and works cited page.

          D. Remember: an example includes details of something
               happening, or of someone doing or saying something
which actually  illustrates the idea. A vague statement
               that the idea exists in the work is not a real example.

          E. Put good-sized quotes in raw, unedited form on your
               "notepage." Substantial quotes will help you to remember
               the exact context of the quote when you are actually
               putting your paper together.They can be edited later
               into a more manageable size.

     6. Above the quote - after you have placed a quote in the
          middle of your "
notepage," write in your own words
          whatever background information is necessary for
          understanding the quote.

       – It is very important to write the background while the
          material is fresh in your mind
. You may have only a
          vague memory of the context a month later, when you
          are working on the final draft of your paper.

     7. Make sure that you choose examples which are
          amenable to good analysis
(which have good
          "bullability"), as a significant portion of your grade
          will be based on the quality of your analysis.
          Lousy examples = lousy analysis.

       8.  You should end up with a nice pile of items which could
          possibly be used in your paper. Some may not be used,
          but if you have created a "
notepage" for every significant
          possible idea, you should still have some very good
          material mixed in with some stuff that might not be so great.

     9.  Put together all examples of each separate idea
          in separate piles, clipping them together with those
          nice solid binding clips. Within each pile, decide which
          examples would best illustrate the ideas in your paper.
          Use those for your paper.

   10.  Plagiarism is the stealing of an author's words
          or ideas without giving credit to the author.
          It is considered impressive if you show your knowledge of
          many authors by quoting them, but it is considered theft
          to use an author's words or ideas without giving credit.
          Such theft can result in a person's getting an F
          in the course or being kicked out of college
          Make sure all material is properly cited.

You have now created a well-organized mass of good
          raw material from which you should easily be able to write
          a good paper. Almost everything you need is in the pile.

          If you have thoroughly prepared your material, you should
          be able to complete most of your final paper, using only
          your "notepages," without having to go back to
          your sources.
Good preparation can make the final
          process go much more quickly and easily.

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  © 2002  j r Andrews