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Disorganization doesn't always go well with paperwriting
       Often, when writing a paper with one or more sources to include or quote, it seems that just organizing the information is as much work as writing the paper. A pile of notes, loose papers, and half-read books and/or highlighted articles is surely a familiar site to me—and the stress that goes along with piecing together all those components is also not far enough in my past as a writer. However, it occurred to me somewhere along the way that there are more efficient ways to take notes, and even to employ the Writing Center suggestion of “citing while you write.”
       Of course, you may have a highly sophisticated method of organizing your thoughts and research, and that’s great. However, I have found that, for many, the organization occurs during the later writing process, and all the distraction of sorting information can really be a hindrance to the flow of writing. I do not speak of a magic solution though; my methods are simple, straight-forward, and obvious.
  • When reading, and I want to use any information from the source, I write the bibliographic information down right before I copy that quote, or paraphrase that idea. That way, all following information is under the same source
  • If I have the work in my possession, either saved to my computer or on my personal bookshelf, I only record the author and title at this point--But you could record all the bibliographic information to save steps later.
  • If I will have to return the book, or will not have the work in my possession during the time I will be writing, and revising, my paper, I write all of the relevant information down now to avoid going on a time-consuming hunt for the source when doing the final citations.
  • I make sure to include the page (and line, scene, etc., if applicable) number after every point.
  • If possible, copying and pasting quotes directly into a word document (or even typing the quotes from a book) instead of writing them on paper is a great way not only to save paper but also to keep everything in one place.
  • If I have thoughts or comments about what I am reading, I usually put them below the quote/section, usually highlighted, or the font changed, and titled “Liz note” so that I know it is my writing. 
  • The way that you save and title your documents can clarify where what notes are located.
  • If using just a few ideas from a variety of works, I will put them all in one document, usually titled “Sourcework Paper Topic” so that I can identify this document as my research.
  • If my notes on a work are multiple pages long, I make a separate word document for it, titled “Sourcework Author Name.”
  • I save all of the notes from that paper into one folder and I often use subfolders to separate research from outlines, random thoughts, and drafts.
  • Once the research mining is finished, I use these documents to compile an outline, or at least copy and paste the relevant quotes below subject headings.
  • I always back-up all of these documents, through flash-drives or e-mail multiple, times during the writing process.
So, now you know what I do during the mess of writing a paper. What about your methods? Do you have a system? Share it in the comments!

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Elizabeth Gustosson-Berkstresser is a sophomore and a tutor in the Writing Center

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