Writing an Essay
Gathering the Material

Gathering the material

Now that you have written your thesis statement, you need to collect evidence from a variety of sources to support your thesis. Your sources will include books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias, and the Internet. Usually, there will be reams of information about your topic, but you need to restrict your information to evidence that will support your thesis. Otherwise, your paper will lack unity.

To take notes you will need to use source cards and note cards.

Source cards

For each source that you use, you need a new source card, so that you will know the source of the information later. Each source card is numbered sequentially for later reference.

Sample source card for books
Source #1
AuthorBertha Davis
TitleInstead of Prison
City of publicationNew York City
PublisherFranklin Watts
Date of publication1986
Call number (optional)

Source card for magazines
Source #2
Author of articleRobert M. Sapolsky
Title of article"Stress in the Wild"
Title of magazineScientific American
Date of magazineJanuary 1990
Page numbers of articlepp. 118-123

Source card for encyclopedia
Source #3
Title of EncyclopediaGrolier Encyclopedia
Title of EntryAbortion
Author of EntryT. John Wilkins

Source card for Internet
Source #4
Author of articleAngelina Chapin
Title of article"McDonald's Fast-food Romances"
Title of magazineCanadian Business Online
DateMarch 14, 2011

Note cards

When you are gathering arguments to support your thesis, you need to take notes. There are three different kinds of notes you can take.

1. Quotation note
2. Summary note
3. Combination of quotation and summary note

Use a separate card for each note, so that the notes can be arranged in the proper sequence later according to your outline.
Quotation note card

In your notes, place quotation marks around any direct quotations so that you will know later that these are direct quotes. If you copy material from another source and do not acknowledge that information by placing quotation marks around it, you are guilty of plagiarizing material. Plagiarism is stealing material from another source and pretending it is your original material. You may legitimately get ideas from other sources, but you must place quotation marks around sentences or phrases that are quoted verbatim. Quite often, the grade given to a paper that is plagiarized is zero.

Summary note card

You have a summary note when you read the material from a source and then summarize the information in your own words.

Combination note card

A combination note card exists when you summarize information in your own words but you include a phrase or clause directly from the original source. Make sure that you indicate with quotation marks the part of the summary that is a direct quotation. The quotation should be worked seamlessly into your summary.

Note: Your notes need to be on individual cards with each note card providing the number of the source and a heading from your outline.

Quotation note
[Heading] Definition[Source # and page #]        3/624

"Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another couple or person."

Summary note
[Heading] Reason[Source # and page #]        1/238

There may be times when a wife cannot bear a child because of infertility on her or her husband's part. Also, it may be dangerous for the woman to conceive without putting her life at risk.

Combination note
[Heading] Compensation[Source # and page #]        2/52

If the pregnant woman receives compensation for carrying and delivering the child (besides medical and other reasonable expenses) the arrangement is called "a commercial surrogacy." Otherwise, the arrangement is sometimes referred to as "an altruistic surrogacy."

Summary of note taking

Before note taking

1. Write the thesis statement.
2. Locate sources of information.
3. Skim each source of information for evidence.

During note taking

1. Choose a source of information.
2. Make a source card and number it.
3. Use separate note cards for each note.
4. Take a note, indicating the heading, the page number, and the source number.
5. The note can be a quotation, a summary, or a combination.
6. Take copious notes even though you may not use all of the information.
7. When all the notes have been taken from that source, proceed to the next source, making a new source card.

After note taking

1. Arrange your evidence in the proper sequence according to your outline.
2. Organize your evidence for each argument. You may need to discard information and/or locate more information.
3. Use a variety of evidence, such as statistics, reasons, anecdotes, and/or comparisons.

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