Notecards, Outlining, Mindmaps, and Going Back to the Writing Process
One of the final steps of the research process before moving to your writing process, and returning to various strategies outlined in Chapters 3 and 4, is to begin connecting the ideas of various authors. You now have a summary of each of your sources, along with the MLA citation. You may also want to collect some key quotes after looking back over your annotations of a particular source, and decide which may be potential quotes for your essay—to provide evidence for your thesis and main subtopics of your body paragraphs.
There are various strategies for finding connections among authors. Two main strategies for finding connections and organizing your growing body of evidence, which we’ve already introduced, are Mind mapping and outlining. A nice in-between step that bridges the research process with the Mind map/outline process is the use of notecards or sticky notes.
Using Notecards or Sticky notes to Organize your Research
- Print and lay out your annotated bibliographies on a table in front of you; alternatively open all the documents on your home screen, and reread what you have written.
- Starting with one of your sources, use notecards or sticky notes to write out ONE idea or major claim from your summary. Bonus points if you can connect a quote or note a page number where the author discussed this idea or claim.
- Write at least 2 to 3 main claims per source, and attach or cluster the notecards to the annotated bibliography; you may color code the cards or sticky notes, or code them by number, letter, or symbol, to keep track of each authors’ claims.
- Once you have multiple notecards or sticky notes per source, you can start to move the notecards or sticky notes around on your desk, to cluster different authors or sources together based on similar ideas or claims, or similar categories of ideas.
- The authors do not have to agree on a certain claim, necessarily, to be clustered together in the same category of ideas. What you are starting to do here is introduce your various authors to each other, to bring them into the “same room,” to meet each other and have ‘a conversation’ that will eventually show up in your essay.
- When you have at least two authors in each cluster of notecards or sticky notes, you can start to see connections with which you can draft a “good ol’ outline” as Jolie introduced in Chapter 3. In the outline, you can plan to organize your body paragraph topics based on the similar categories of ideas and claims that come from various authors.
- If you prefer, you can also use your notecards to create a mind map based on the similar categories of ideas from your authors, to show how each author “branches out” from the same idea or claim in their own way, and further branch out from the authors with the evidence they use to support their stances.
Conclusion: A Note on the Recursive Nature of Learning, Reading, Writing, and Research.
Congratulations! You have made it to the end of your journey through this text and reader – for now. You have probably noticed some repetition in this book, which is because learning, reading, writing, and research all involve similar applications of the same “recursive” processes. For example, we use mind maps for reading that your professor assigns you, for research and sources that you find, and for organizing your own original ideas in early stages of the writing process. Annotation and other active reading strategies are useful for all of these processes as well, in addition to peer review of your colleagues’ work and your own proofreading process of your own work. When you “read like a writer” and use strategies outlined in Chapter 1, when it comes to the writing process in Chapters 2 and 3, we expect that you will use your flexible mindset as a writer to experiment with certain techniques, rhetorical appeals, and ways of writing that you have carefully observed and annotated when you previously read. This is especially important when you advance into the particular field of study in which you will focus your future career, where through “reading like a writer” you can learn and start to internalize the specific expectations, norms, and vocabulary of that field of study.
All of this, especially peer review, adds to your prior knowledge of important topics you choose because they are important to you—and your peers choose because they are important to them—and hence your learning becomes meaningful and stimulating. Your peers are often your best teachers, and through peer review you can learn from their perspectives, and often their writing techniques and the moves they make, just as much as you can learn from more advanced writers with whom you share less connections, in terms of your values, language use, burgeoning subject knowledge, and so on.
Further, your professor may assign parts of this book in a different order based on the way they set up their course schedule. One professor may teach the reading process and writing process in depth before starting research (as we have set up the book); others may include research as a natural succession of the reading process, assigning Chapter 4 after Chapter 1, then teaching the writing process with Chapters 2 and 3 after you have gone through the research process to find, evaluate, and read sources you have found. That would also make sense. The point is that this book is not a linear progression of learning that leads to reading, which leads to writing, which leads to research, but that all parts of each process feed into, reflect, and build on each other recursively, or in a more circular way.
Finally, we hope that this book can be recursive in the sense that you will return to parts of it that you find useful throughout your college career, and beyond. As a “living,” truly Open Educational Resource, we will continually revise and update this text as we encounter new knowledge and perspectives, but the core spirit of the journey we’ve taken you on will always be accessible as long as you have an Internet connection.
To wrap everything up on the theme of the ‘recursive’, the new literacies you’ve practiced in this text and will develop throughout college involve various recursive processes where each stage of your development is integrally connected to the rest. The goal is to make you independent thinkers and learners with various critical choices to make as readers and writers, based on who you are and what you think is important in the world.
Thank you for being here to do this important work! Before you embark to use your reading and writing to conquer the world, please take one last moment to engage with us as critical readers of our text.