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.