Taking notes for a research report is much like taking notes for a composition. With the research report, however, it is important to keep a good record of where you get your information. The easiest way to do so is to write each piece of information, in your own words, on a separate note card then, on the bottom of the card, write the information about your source. Later, when you begin to write you will know the exact source for each piece of information. (One way to be certain you are using your own words is to complete the reading and then look away from your source while writing the notes.)
Taking notes is easier if you have some idea of what you want to find. Once you have some general information about your topic from a source such as an encyclopedia, begin asking yourself questions to help you find information as you read other sources. For example, suppose you decide to write a research report on Matthew Alexander Henson, who accompanied Admiral Robert Peary to the North Pole and was actually the first person to reach the top. Using the who? what? when? where? why? and how? questions, you discover some of what you need to find out about your topic:
• Who was Matthew Alexander Henson?
• What was his role in the expedition?
• What had he done before the expedition?
• When was he born?
• When did he and Admiral Peary begin the expedition?
• When did he reach the North Pole?
• Where was Matthew Alexander Henson from?
• Where did he first meet Admiral Peary?
• Why did Matthew Alexander Henson accompany Admiral Peary on the expedition?
• Why was he the first person to reach the North Pole?