Taking Specific Information Notes

Excerpts from pages 99-102 of Writing Research Papers Across the Curriculum, Third Edition, by Susan M. Hubbach, copyright 1992 by Holt, Rinehart & Winston, reprinted by permission of the publisher.

This material may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Specific Information Notes Are:

  • Notes on facts, data, results of studies, statistics, names and identities, definitions of terms, etc.

  • Theses, conclusions, opinions of experts (sometimes quoted directly)

You will take more of these notes later in the research process, after you have explored and educated yourself on your topic. 

How Do I Write Specific Information Notes?

  • Put one piece of information on each note card.

  • Include author, title (if more than one work by the same author) and page.

  • Edit quotes carefully.

  • Include a "slug" - brief heading - that refers to the subtopic in your paper the note is related to.

  • Paraphrase and abbreviate unless there is a reason to quote.

  • Distinguish between a fact that is common knowledge, a fact that is the author's, and a fact that the author got from another source (indirect source). 

Common Knowledge

If the author clearly got the information from somewhere else but does not cite a source, or if you have encountered the same info. elsewhere, just list this author on the notecard. You might indicate that you think the information is common knowledge (CK).    


Casualties   Vandervoort p. 176 

1500 died in Battle of Sanchez    (CK) 

Author's own facts


      Comprehension and Thinking Study    Sorensen p. 40-1 

      subjects - 75 high school students 
      1/2   SAT verbal scores over 600 
      1/2 SAT verbal scores under 400 
      instrument used:  Howard-Smith Reading Comp. Test 

Indirect source:

You can use these, but remember that graduate students are expected to make every effort to locate primary sources and cite them directly:


    City govts. - 1800's              Hofstadter p. 176 

    "Andrew D. White asserted in 1890 that 'with very few exceptions, the city governments of the United States are the worst in Christendom... the most expensive, the most inefficient, and the most corrupt.'" 

    qtd. from White, Forum, Vol. X, (Dec. 1890), p. 25 

How do I paraphrase specific information?

    Paraphrasing more general information or longer sections can lead to distortions or a kind of myopia because the text is tied to the author's point of view and larger thesis. Instead of breaking a section of a paper down into one piece of info. per card, in such cases, your paraphrases should become more like short summaries.  Step back from the author's words and record what he/she is doing rather than what he/she is saying.


      Traditional interp.              DiMarco  p. 776-782 

      DiMarco shows how trad. interpretations of Williams' poem "Victory" are generally religious interps. emphasizing Christian symbolism. 

      Categories of historians.   Jamison  

      As J.  sees it, there are 2 main schools of historians:  
      "The 'I was there' school,"  with the historian attempting to "record a past event as if the historian were an eye witness" (p. 240) and the "analytical school,"  where "all historical data become grist for the statistician's mill"  (p. 241).  

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