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History Seminar Research Paper Guide: Notetaking, Paraphrasing, Outlining

Paraphrasing, Quoting, Summarizing

The document Summarazing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting by Carol Rohrbach and Joyce Valenza of the School District of Springfield Township clarifies when it is preferable to paraphrase, summarize and quote to blen material and hear your writing voice.


Notetaking tips

If you use NoodleTools (RECOMMENDED) for entering your source information (IN CHICAGO STYLE) then you should also take your notes there. If you do this, you can skip steps 1 and 2 below!

If you use index cards or electronic “cards” or use anything other than NoodleTools to keep notes and track sources of information used in your paper do the following:

  1. Create numbered Work Cited “cards” for each source of information.
    • Include all of the citation information (i.e., author, title, publisher, date, page numbers, etc.) you will need to write your Works Cited page.
    • Record the citation information in Chicago Style format. When it comes time to write your Works Cited page, it will be easier to organize your sources alphabetically.
  2. On each "card":
    • Use only one side to record notes.
    • Record only one idea, fact or quote from one source on a notecard. It will be easier to rearrange them later when it comes time to organize your paper.
    • Include a heading for the topic of the card. 
    • Include the original source of the information. If you have created numbered Work Cited cards for each source, you will only need to include the source number.
    • Include the page number where you found the information.
  3. Taking notes:
    • Use abbreviations, acronyms, or incomplete sentences to record information (as long you will understand them later). This will speed up the notetaking process.
  4. Do not write down everything. Extract only the information that answers your research questions
  5. Use one of the following notetaking forms:
    • Summarize the main idea of the article, then outline its main points.
    • Paraphrase or record notes in your own words.
    • If you plan to use an exact quote, make sure you copy the quotation exactly as it appears in the original source. Enclose the quote in quotation marks and note the name of the person you are quoting.
    • Write down your own ideas about what you have read
    • Use symbols, diagrams, charts or drawings to simplify and visualize ideas.

Tips for good paraphrasing

Paraphrasing allows writers to incorporate source material without disrupting the flow of their writing. 

To avoid plagiarizing, you must change both the sentence structure and the words of the original text AND you must ALWAYS CITE anything you paraphrase.

To paraphrase, follow the steps below:

  1. Read the original text until you grasp its meaning; then set it aside.
  2. Using your memory, write down the main points or concepts. Do not copy the text verbatim.
  3. Change the structure of the text by varying the opening, changing the order of sentences, lengthening or shortening sentences, etc.
  4. Replace keywords within the sentences with synonyms or phrases with similar meanings.
  5. Check your notes against the original to ensure you have not accidentally plagiarized. 


An outline is a way of organizing your notes and research to incorporate into a research paper or presentation. Outline only your body paragraphs.

Two Types of Outlines

  • Topic Outline - Using short words and phrases to describe each section
  • Sentence Outline - Using complete sentences to detail information for each section.

What are the required parts an outline?

  • Thesis
  • Title
  • Correct Format

      I. Roman Numerals for Main Headings
         A. Capital Letters for sub-heads
         B. Capital Letters for sub-heads
              1. Numbers for further divisions
              2. Numbers for further divisions

  • Each section must have at least two parts!