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Research as a Process

Strategies to facilitate active reading - Use what works for you!

  • 'Interrogate' the resource; as you read, ask yourself:
    • "What do I need to learn?"
    • "How does this information relate to my research?"
  • Identify and define any unfamiliar terms and concepts using reference works and books.
  • Put down your highlighter. Every time you feel the urge to highlight something, write a note instead. You can:
    • Summarize text.
    • Ask questions.
    • Agree or disagree with the author/s.
    • Write down key words.
    • Strive to enter into a dialogue with the resource and the author.
  • Write questions in the margins, and then answer the questions in a reading journal or on a separate piece of paper. If you’re reading a textbook, try changing all the titles, subtitles, sections and paragraph headings into questions. For example, the section heading “The Gas Laws of Boyle, Charles, and Avogadro” might become “What are the gas laws of Boyle, Charles, and Avogadro?”
  • Make outlines, drawings, or diagrams that help you to understand ideas and the relationship among them.
  • Read each paragraph carefully and then determine “what it says” and “what it does”.
    • What it says = represent the main idea of the paragraph in your own words.
    • What it does = the paragraph’s purpose within the text, such as “provides evidence for the author’s first main reason” or “introduces an opposing view”.
  • Write a summary of an essay or chapter in your own words. Do this in less than a page. Capture the essential ideas and perhaps one or two key examples. This approach offers a great way to be sure that you know what the reading really says or is about.
  • Teach what you have learned to someone else! Research clearly shows that teaching is one of the most effective ways to learn. If you try to explain aloud what you have been studying, you'll:
    • transfer the information from short-term to long-term memory.
    • quickly discover what you understand — and what you don’t.

Adapted from Princeton University’s McGraw Center for Teaching And Learning. (n.d.). Active reading strategies: Remember and analyze what you read. McGraw.Princeton.Edu. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://mcgraw.princeton.edu/active-reading-strategies

Taking notes from scholarly sources

When you find a useful resource, be sure to take notes as you read to help you avoid accidental plagiarism. Whether you take notes on paper or in a note application, follow these guidelines to get the most from the article.

Remember that you MUST cite any words or ideas from your sources, whenever you use a quote, paraphrase, or summary!

  • Record the full bibliographic entry for the resource using the Style Guide designated by the instructor (e.g. MLA or APA). 
  • Include page numbers so that you can build your in-text citations.
  • Take notes on the sections of the text that you read.
  • Indicate when you’ve written a “quotation”, ~paraphrase~, summary, or if they are [your own thoughts].

In addition to notes about the content of the article, record the bibliographic entry for any citations that appear in the text the are reading.


This is an example in Word of one style of taking notes from a scholarly resource. Use whatever conventions work for you, but make sure that you understand when text is taken word-for-word from a source, when you are summarizing, when you are paraphrasing, and when the notes are your own thoughts. Scan the bibliography and copy over resources to locate and read! Don't forget page numbers!!