Making Notes

Making notes is an important part of selecting and analysing information. Making notes and using them to create your final report or presentation will help you to avoid plagiarism.

Follow the steps below, or if you prefer a more visual method of assembling information about a topic, try a graphic organiser.


  • If you have not been given specific aspects of your topic to research then break your topic into its logical parts to form a topic plan.
  • Have your topic plan handy, so that you can check it and add to it when necessary.
  • Know basically what you are looking for, but be prepared to expand your concept of the topic and improve your topic plan as you discover more information and develop a better understanding.
  • Scan each information resource before you use it to check that it will be useful. Look at the contents pages and index. Reread your task sheet to check that you are on the right track.
  • Notes can be hand written into a workbook or typed into an information file or task scaffold. Creating a GoogleDoc is a convenient way of storing notes, as you can type notes into your file from books and other hard copy resources and copy and paste information into your file from internet resources.

Making and organising notes

  • Start a new section for each part of your topic.
  • Before you take notes from a resource write down or cut and paste the details required for your bibliography. This will save you time later.
  • Skim through the information a section at a time to make certain that it is valuable - look for keywords and phrases.
  • Write down the minimum words needed to capture the key idea of each point. Do not write sentences.
  • Only make notes about points that are both relevant and valuable to your topic. Only add new information into your notes as you move from one resource to the next.
  • Look for supporting evidence for your points if appropriate.
  • Use your own words as far as possible.

Example notes/scaffold page

This is an example for a research assignment on the disease malaria. The notes pages have been divided up according to the topic plan and show the first two parts of the plan:

Source Part 1 - Description
World Book Encyclopedia
p. 80
Dangerous parasitic disease / serious large scale health problem tropical, subtropical areas / caused by microscopic oganisms 'plasmodia' transmitted by bite female anopheles mosquito / 4 types - different types of plasmodia
Encyclopedia of family health
p. 993
One of most infectious diseases / modern air travel/tourism have increased problem / on increase in many parts of world / difficult to eradicate - changing mosquito populations / people can become partially immune, just get occasional fever - organisms stay in the body
SourcePart 2 - Symptoms
World Book Encyclopedia
p. 80
1 week after bite / victim suffers chills, fever, muscular aches, nausea - lasting 2 hours - recurs every 48 hours / body slowly weakens - die if untreated - 2-3 million die each year
Encyclopedia of family health
p. 994
3 stages - cold chills, high temerature, profuse sweating / also flu-like symptoms plus vomiting and diarrhea / anemia, enlargement of liver and spleen

The notes from the second source consulted should add to the information already found in the first source. With your notes recorded and organised in this way it is easy to combine the notes from different sources into sentences and paragraphs in your draft report or essay. Working in this way is the best way to avoid plagiarism.

Example of draft

The facts recorded in the notes have been combined below into original sentences and paragraphs that are different to anything found in any of the sources used. Headings have been used to show the main sections of the report.

Report on Malaria


Malaria is a life threatening disease that is a major health problem in many parts of the world. This assignment will present a study of this menacing disease. The first section looks at a general description of the disease and its symptoms. This is followed by information about the history of the disease, its causes and treatment. Finally, the assignment looks at the current situation and what the future may hold with regard to possible global eradication of the disease.


Malaria is a highly infectious, parasitic disease that is mainly found in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. The disease is caused by microscopic organisms called plasmodia, which are transmitted into the human bloodstream by a bite from the female anopheles mosquito. There are four different types of malaria, which vary in their seriousness and depend on the type of plasmodia present.

In many parts of the world the disease is on the increase. This situation has arisen because malaria is difficult to eradicate, as it depends on the spread of mosquito populations and because it can become a problem in other areas due to the increase in tourism to infected areas.


The symptoms of malaria have three stages. During the first stage the infected person experiences cold chills...





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