What’s Important to Include in Your Research Notes?

By jumping straight to researching, without a plan or system for keeping your research sources together, organized, and accessible, you’ve inadvertently traded one problem—not knowing where to start—with another. Now, you may find yourself faced with having too much information and not enough direction. In this blog, we’re going to explore the process of keeping your research organized.
Joe Bellavance
Joe Bellavance

So, you’ve just gotten a new assignment at work. You’ve been tasked with writing a brief whitepaper to help your business’s potential customers  better understand what your company offers, why they should consider buying your product (or subscribing to your service), and why your organization’s solution is the best on the market. 

Where do you start? If you’re like many people, you’re probably tempted to open a new browser tab, and perform a few Google searches. Before you know it, you have a dozen tabs open and are feeling overwhelmed and disorganized. You feel buried and directionless. “How do I keep my research organized?” you ask yourself.

Ok, let’s pump the brakes here. By jumping straight to researching, without a plan or system for keeping your research sources together, organized, and accessible, you’ve inadvertently traded one problem—not knowing where to start—with another. Now, you may find yourself faced with having too much information and not enough direction. 

In this blog, we’re going to explore the process of keeping your research organized, so you can do it more effectively, keep everything straight, and produce exceptional content.

What Is Notetaking, and Why Is Notetaking Important?

Whenever you’re writing a piece of content that requires you to bring in outside perspectives—like compelling statistics or insightful quotes from credible sources—notetaking is vital to the process. In this context, notetaking simply refers to the process of identifying an informational source, extracting its key points or ideas, and considering how you can use the information in your writing. 

There are a few different ways to look at the importance of notetaking in the research process. So, what are the benefits of notetaking? In business writing, benefits include:

  • Saving time (and reducing frustration): By taking a few notes on a particular source, you can  easily access and incorporate the research into your writing. Without notes, you may have to go back through your open tabs to re-locate the source you need.
  • Improving your writing quality: Whether you’re writing a piece of sales collateral or an ebook (or something else entirely), effectively incorporating credible sources into your writing helps you write informative, credible content for your audience.

What Are the Most Common, Effective Notetaking Strategies?

There are a number of different notetaking methods. You probably already know a few of these, as they work for educational as well as business-related use cases. Among the most commonly-taught systems for notetaking include the Cornell, Outlining, and Mapping methods.

  • The Cornell Method: This method uses a two-column system for notetaking. Essentially, one column is for transcribing source notes, while the other column is where you (as the researcher/writer) can include your own ideas about the information and how you might use it in your own writing.
  • The Outlining Method: If you’re picturing an outline consisting of some mixture of letters, numbers, bullets, or other symbols, with text organized and indented accordingly, then you’re familiar with this common method. This tactic is especially useful when you have many different ideas or sources that you need to sensibly organize.
  • The Mapping Method: This is like the Outlining Method, except instead of tidy, indented lines it’s formatted much less strictly. When you’re having trouble connecting the dots of your research, the mapping method can certainly help. Basically, with the Mapping Method, you simply add ideas to a blank page, then use lines and arrows to connect the topics that make the most sense to group together.

Each of these strategies comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. You can learn more about each of these (as well as two others, the Charting Method and Sentence Method), with examples, in this guide put together by the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.

What Is the Best Way to Organize Research Notes?

Rather than an absolute, one-size-fits-all solution to notetaking and organization, there are, in fact, many different ways to organize your notes. We all think differently, write differently, and so on—making it important to find a system that works for you. 

Regardless of the system you choose, you should track a few pieces of information as your research comes together. Tracking these points in your notes will help you save time, stay focused, and write excellent and well-sourced content.

What Should Your Research Notes Include?

The two most important types of information your research notes should include are information about the source and information from the source.

  • Information about the source: Who wrote the content (the author or authors)? Who published it (the company or organization), when it was published or accessed, and where did you find it (the specific URL)? 
  • Information from the source: What are the main pieces of information, or other takeaways that you might incorporate into your own writing? You might note specific, quotable sentences or passages, compelling statistics, or other information.

If you’re reading a credible source of information, none of these points should be too difficult to find. To help yourself establish effective notetaking and researching habits, you might consider creating your own template for taking notes on journal articles or other key information sources. 

How Should You Organize Your Research Notes?

Finally, we want to provide a few best practices related to how to organize research notes. There are primarily two schools of thought here: old school (analog) notetaking and modern (digital) notetaking.

  • Analog notetaking: This is the old school notetaking method—not that there’s anything wrong with old school! For this method, you might be researching online or offline, jotting down relevant information with pen and paper, notecards, or another tangible product.
  • Digital notetaking: Modern researchers and writers tend to prefer this method, as it reduces the potential clutter and disorganization that can come with old school, physical notetaking. You might take notes in a Google Doc or Sheet, including source links—or expedite and simplify the process with Slice’s chaos-reducing content creation tools.

A Modern Research and Writing Solution for Serious Writers: That’s Slice

Slice was created to empower modern researchers and writers with intuitive, distraction-free tools to keep them focused, organized, and productive. Slice’s platform combines research and notetaking functionality with a focus-friendly writing environment, all within a single uncluttered interface. Rather than dozens of internet tabs or a messy mixture of physical notes and digital sources, Slice provides a simple and streamlined solution.

With Slice, you can:

  • Use your notes easily and keep things organized without taking yourself out of the writing flow. Our easy-to-install web clipper lets you save web articles directly into your writing project, so they’re available as notes when you need them.
  • Slice content into manageable sections by breaking large pieces of content into smaller components to reduce anxiety. 
  • Collaborate better by assigning responsibilities, setting due dates, and indicating status within your writing project. 

If you’re ready for a better research and writing experience or just want to understand how Slice works, you can learn more here. Or, visit our registration page to learn more about features and pricing, read customer testimonials, or schedule a one-on-one consultation.

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