Step 3: Read, Evaluate, and Organize
Your goal in this step is to reflect on what you have learned, draw a conclusion, and then organize your information to support that conclusion.
“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.”
As you read, you will "interview" your sources.
- Consider what the author is saying, when the source was written, and how the ideas are supported with facts and evidence.
- With each sentence you read, consider the point being made. Is it logical? Is it valid? Does it change what you believe about the subject?
- As soon as you can form a statement of what you believe to be true, jot down this statement—or thesis or revised hypothesis—your original position may change as you learn more about the topic.
How will you record what you find?
You will need to develop a system to record and organize the information you find. Good old-fashioned note cards are still an excellent tool for recording your information.
Or, you can use one of the following:
- Notebook paper
- A short summary of the main idea and the most important fact/s that support the idea.
- Do not record every word in the source. Learn to paraphrase the source. (3x5 cards are useful here because they force you to take brief notes.)
- Not the publication information of the source where you got your information. Here's a form to keep track of your sources and the information from them.
How will you give credit to your sources?
Citation is the formal term for the act of crediting your sources.
Remember to record the necessary information for creating your Bibliography or Works Cited List. Write exactly where you found the information (including author, title, publisher, page numbers, specific URLs, etc.). You must provide enough information so that another researcher can locate exactly the same document. This information will be used in your final Bibliography or Works Cited page, so make careful notes.
Check with your instructor to determine which format you should use for your citations. The most common and the subject areas in which they are used are:
See our Citing Your Sources page for a quick guide to using these styles.
What did you learn from reading, listening, and/or viewing?
Try to answer this question in one sentence—write a thesis statement. Take a stand and prepare to persuade your audience that your interpretation is correct. Make the strongest thesis statement that you can defend with the evidence that you have.
Brainstorming and sketching your ideas can help make this process easier!
Grab a pen or pencil and a blank piece of paper. Begin with your thesis. Write it somewhere on your blank paper. Brainstorm and note ideas that you have identified in your information sources. Use arrows. Draw circles. Look for connections and patterns. Identify lines of reasoning.
- Can you see any common ideas?
- Which are more important? Why?
- Look for new ideas or new ways of connecting old ideas.
How do you organize your points to effectively persuade your audience?
Use all or some of the following steps to organize your information.
Create an outline
Using the pattern you identified in your sketch, develop a sequential outline. Use the model below, one recommended by your teacher, or create one yourself.
- Structure your argument
- Does my thesis control the direction of my outline?
- Are all of my main points relevant to my thesis?
- Do I have sufficient support for each of my points?
- Is my outline logical?
- Does my outline reflect a thorough, thoughtful argument? Have I sufficiently covered all the ground?
Your answer to each of the above questions should be yes.
You have now completed your research and are ready to start writing your paper.