Note Cards


Now that you have completed your survey of resources and your Source Cards or Works Consulted page, it is time to read about your topic and begin taking notes.  An organizational tool for this phase of the research process is a note card.


Suggestions for Note Cards

·         Write on only one side of each 3x5 or 5x7 card.

·         You will need a note card for quotations, an author’s ideas, statistics, graphs and charts.

·         Make a separate note card for each idea or quotation you might want to use in your paper.

·         Put quotation marks around material that is copied word for word.

·         If you find the information in 3 or more sources and put it in your own words, it is common knowledge and doesn’t require that you document the source.  It will be difficult during the early stages of reading and taking notes to determine what is common knowledge, so if you write it on a note card, give the source.


Organization of Note Cards


MLA does not require a specific format for note cards, it is left to the discretion of the teacher, but the WTHS Style Guide recommends using one of these formats.




Explanation of the Parts of the Note Card


Label - The label is used to categorize the notes you are taking under several descriptive headings.  Labels allow you to arrange your notes in some logical order according to the topics and subtopics in your preliminary outline.  You will arrange your cards according to their labels before you write your page.  You may not be able to label your note card as soon as you take the note.  This may have to be done after you’ve had time to reflect on your reading and note taking.


Page Number – The exact page number where you found the citation should be noted on the card.  Keep in mind that online databases and the Internet do not have page numbers.


The Source – This refers to where you found  your information. It is always enclosed in parentheses.

Note Card #1 – This is the name of the author or editor of the book and the page number.

Note Card #2 – This number corresponds to the number you wrote on your bibliography card.


The Note – This can be a summary, a paraphrase, or a quotation from a book, a magazine article, an online database,  or the Internet.  This is the information that you will use to write your paper; in fact, you should be able to write your paper by using your note cards and not have to refer back to the sources of information.  Be sensible about note taking.  You will have more cards than you need to write your paper, but do not take down every detail and do not duplicate material


Types of Note Cards – Quotation, Summary and Paraphrased



Put quotation marks around material that you copy word for word.


When quoting a source that uses quotation marks, change the author’s double quotation marks to single quotation marks.


      According to Harold Bloom “‘the essence of The Great Gatsby is double vision’” (25).


When quoting lines of poetry, put the lines of poetry in quotation marks.  You may use two or three lines of poetry by separating each line with a  slash (/).


Langston Hughes describes the realties of life  in “A Dream Deferred”: “What happens to a  dream deferred? / Does in dry up like a raisin in the sun? / Or fester like a sore?” (10).


If you are incorporating a quoted question and a parenthetical citation, the question mark is followed by the quotation mark and then the parenthetical citation, which ends with a period.


If you are going to alter the quote by adding your own thoughts, use brackets around your words.

If you are going to omit words or sentences from the quoted material, use ellipsis points


Words – use 3 dots …

Sentences – use 4 dots ….


“Dickens was a keen observer of life…he showed sympathy for the poor” (Magill 27).



A summary captures the key ideas of an author in a few words.





This is a restatement in your own words of the thoughts and ideas of a writer.  Usually paraphrased material is written in about the same number of words as the original. 


When paraphrasing, read the material. Then close the book before you write the note card.


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