Beginning Research Paper Make Note Cards

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In doing so, I outed myself as a very old-fashioned researcher, indeed. It’s more useful for me to see what material a manuscript holds while I’m in the archive, and to jot it down there.

Given the fact that I was looking for mentions of Native and slave foodways in Revolutionary America, it made more sense for me to skim quickly until I found something rather than to take photos and hope to find mentions of food afterward.

When I was in Philadelphia recently to present a paper at the Mc Neil Center, I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet undergraduate students who were working on research papers as part of the MCEAS Undergraduate Research Workshop. Fellow Juntoist Ben Park has written eloquently about why he uses Evernote and how he organizes his data.

I was asked to talk about my research methods—how I go about finding sources, how I organize them, and how I pull them together into (sometimes) coherent prose. And readers, I have a confession: I am a huge proponent of old-fashioned index cards. He even includes a “fun anecdote” about an instructor who taught “us how to keep notes on notecards.” Tongue-in-cheek, he wonders, “Does anyone do that anymore? I don’t take pictures of documents because I know that I’m the type of procrastinator who will never sit down and read the things she’s scanned.

As I look ahead to the behemoth task of turning the dissertation into a book, I’m willing to admit that I could stand to update my methods and open myself up to more sophisticated forms of note-taking.

Readers, any note-taking tips/programs/tricks you use to keep track of your research? I ended up using index cards, and it worked for me. The research started (albeit superficially) with my comprehensive exams.As I read the books on my list, I transcribed the passages I found where historians referenced food, cooking, or eating.Writing a research paper is not the easiest thing in the world but neither is it the hardest thing.If you are finding that your research is getting out of hand and difficult to keep organized then you may benefit from the use of note cards to help you keep in organized.Once I was done adding in every potential collection, I formatted the document to 4 by 6 inches, shrunk the font (to save paper), and added page numbers.Then, I bought extra print cartridges, resigned myself to killing some trees, and printed everything out on index cards (each chapter usually ended up producing 200-500 cards).As an undergrad, I could print out my fifteen or so pages of primary source quotes to write a 10-to-12-page research paper.That method wasn’t going to work for the dissertation.Once I got to an archive, I created a new Word document for each collection I looked at.As I read, I transcribed the quotes I thought would be useful for me, making sure to note in bold when a volume changed over to the next volume.


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