Usually, all they want to do is to do enough to just get buy. Why push themselves more than necessary?
Well, here's my simple method of conducting information from articles and other print-sources for later use; I call it the Index Method.
Originally I got the idea from a professor of mine at Ohio University; Dr. Elliot Abrams. The Index Method, perhaps unimaginatively, gets its name from the use of simple, 3x5 index cards.
The process is fairly simple and has only three phases:
Phase I: "Data Collection"
1. Buy a package of ruled (or graphed or unlined or whatever) index cards.
2. Grab whatever you're doing research on.
3. Add caffeinated beverage of your choice.
4. Record the basic citation information about whatever you're reading on an index card and tuck it into the front of the book. Collect the important information like:
- Title of the material you're reading
- Copyright date
- Author's Name
- ISBN #
- ...and anything else that looks handy for identifying the material for a later date.
4. Begin reading.
5. Rather than highlighting anything that seems important (which is the graffiti of the academic world), write down the line that you find most important about the paragraph that you're reading. Whenever you find something meaningful like a bit of vocabulary or some statement that defines what the material is about jot it down on a fresh index card.
At first I would write the title at the top of the card as well as the author's name and copyright date. Then in the body of the card I would write out the quoted section with the page number in the bottom corner.
This way you have all of the information you would need to cite the source and the material all on one card.
6. Continue reading material.
7. Make more cards.
8. Apply more caffeine as necessary.
9. Once you're done with whatever book or article that you were reading collect all of your cards and throw a rubber band around them (or something there about) and set them to the side while you go through your other material for whatever project you're working on.
Take a break and come back to the cards once you've let your mind relaxed.
Phase II "Data Filtering"
This is the phase where you turn the raw cards into something more useable.
1. Re-read the cards and on the back of the card write a one or two word summary of what the citation deals with.
You're looking for a simple category of information that the card deals with. You could list a card with "VOCAB", "SYMBOLS" or simply "THEORY" or something like that.
2. Once you have all of your cards categorized (and be sure to give a category to the title card for each article, book, etc.), put them back in their rubber-bands.
PHASE III: "Data Application"
This is the phase where you need to figure out what you're doing with the information that you've gathered. Whether this is a research paper, journal article or something in between, you'll need to put the information you've gathered to good use.
1. Start by sorting the cards based on the categories on the back.
2. Figure out some kind of logical order of your paper based on the requirements.
3. Use the categories like sections in the paper.
- If you have a lot of cards about 'SYMBOLS' then figure out what you need to say about that topic.
- Jot down some ideas about what you want to say about a given topic based on what you read. Usually it only needs to be a short sentence or so.
- Once you have a number of those topic cards, start linking them together with the citations that you have like paving stones.
- You may have to introduce another topic card to tie one quote to another.
4. Use the topic cards and the citation cards as a skeleton to write your section.
- I would recommend just writing the topic cards and citation cards into a word document and start to throw on 'flesh' and 'skin' to make it all make sense.
Once you've finished with whatever assignment you're working on - don't throw the cards away. You don't want to have to go out and do more research if you don't have to. The problem is that it's way to easy to misplace or damage a stack of index cards.
So...move on to the last phase:Phase IV: "Data Storage"
Index cards are great for working through things since you can sort through them and put them in some kind of logical sequence for the assignment at hand. But there's a better way of storing the information.
1. Go find a photo-copier or, if you have the patience, a digital scanner.
2. Copy (or scan) the cards in groups of 3-4 on the page.
3. Once you have all of your cards copied and stuck into a 3-ring binder, throw them, still bound, into an old shoe-box. They can still be used down the road.
4. Organize the binder into sections depending on your research field.
You can reduce a 300 page book into a dozen pages. You can turn a 20-page article into 2-3 pages of copied note cards.
So whenever you have another assignment or project (or if you're geek enough - do your own research), you can continually add to your files on a particular subject so that the next time you have to work on something - half of your work is already done.