Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

ENG1020 English Composition : Research resources: Using Sources


There are several ways that you can take notes on your sources to use in your paper. One way is to write an MLA citation for your source on an index card and record your notes on the card. Another way is to use a Word document. Type out an MLA citation for your source, then bullet point your notes. Regardless what style you use to write your notes (written or electronic), always include a citation of the source as a header to your notes from that source, so you don't forget what source it came from.

When you take notes, you should always paraphrase (see right) unless you see a direct quote you want to use. If you see a direct quote you want to use, then write it down word for word and put it in quotation marks " ". Everyone has their own style of note-taking, but however you choose to do it, make sure that you will understand these notes when you look back at them later.


It is important to know how to paraphrase properly so that you do not plagiarize your sources' content. To paraphrase, follow the steps below:

  • Read the original text until you grasp its meaning; then set it aside.
  • Using your memory, write down the main points or concepts. Do not copy the text verbatim.
  • Change the structure of the text by varying the opening, changing the order of sentences, lengthening or shortening sentences, etc.
  • Replace keywords within the sentences with synonyms or phrases with similar meanings.
  • Check your notes against the original to ensure you have not accidentally plagiarized.

Paraphrasing Example 1.

Original Text
If the existence of a signing ape was unsettling for linguists, it was also startling news for animal behaviorists (Davis 26).

Unacceptable Borrowing of Phrases
Davis observed that the existence of a signing ape unsettled linguists and startled animal behaviorists (26).

Unacceptable Borrowing of Structure
Davis observed that if the presence of a sign-language-using chimp was disturbing for scientists studying language, it was also surprising to scientists studying animal behavior (26).

Acceptable Paraphrase
Davis observed both linguists and animal behaviorists were taken by surprise upon learning of an ape’s ability to use sign language (26).

Paraphrasing Example 2.

Original Text
The automotive industry has not shown good judgment in designing automotive features that distract drivers. A classic example is the use of a touch-sensitive screen to replace al the controls for radios, tape/CD players, and heating/cooling. Although an interesting technology, such devices require that the driver take his eyes off the road.
- Tom Magliozzi and Ray Magliozzi, Letter to a Massachusetts state senator, p.3

Unacceptable Borrowing
Radio show hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi argue that the automotive industry has not demonstrated good judgment in devising car features that distract drivers. One feature is a touch-sensitive screen that replaced controls for radios, tape/CD players, and heating/cooling. Although the technology is interesting, such devices require that a driver look away from the road (3).

Acceptable Paraphrase
Radio show hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi claim that motor vehicle manufacturers do not always design features with safety in mind. For example, when designers replaced radio, CD player, and temperature control knobs with touch-sensitive panels, they were forgetting one thing: To use the panels, drivers would need to take their eyes off the road (3).


Examples taken from: Hacker, Diana. Rules for Writers. 5th ed. Boston: Beford/St. Martin’s, 2004.

Content of this lesson written by Valerie Freeman.

Annotated Bibliographies

Many professors will ask you to write an annotated bibliography for your research paper. Annotated bibliographies allow professors to vet your sources before you start writing, but they also make you, the writer, look more critically at the sources you have found and help you to weed out the ones that may not actually be useful to you.

Breakdown of annotated bibliographies

Examples of annotated bibliographies