Making Sense of Your Notes

As you continue to work on your paper, shift from simply recording or identifying key ideas and information to organizing your research findings. This shift to organizing becomes a sort of “thinking on paper” and aids in developing the structure and main arguments of your paper.

You can think of organizing your notes as “taking notes on your notes.”

Some useful strategies include:


summarize the themes, ideas and/or arguments that you have noted

outline relationships and draw connections among authors, readings, ideas and concepts

synthesize material from different sources around themes, key ideas, etc., to help you develop your own interpretations or arguments

create comparison charts, diagrams or graphs to help you combine information from different sources in ways that will help you build the arguments for your paper

map or create a rough blueprint to help guide your writing process, perhaps by physically manipulating post-it notes or note cards


Try organizing your ideas in different ways. At this point it is not necessary to have a clear picture of the flow of your final paper. This is a good opportunity to experiment.