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Bruin Success with Less Stress

Oops! I Thought Your Words Were Mine

Real Student Comment

If you use this method and do it correctly, you can't accidentally plagiarize. Like, it's impossible to mess up if you do this.

Sloppy note-taking can really get you in trouble, so invest some time in taking careful notes.

Here's an old school note-taking method that people have been using for eons. Use this, adapt it, or develop your own system.

You'll need index cards, different colored pens/highlighters, and your sources.

Your cards could look something like this:

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Your Own Ideas

On the front of the card:

  1. In the upper left corner, color code the cards — use one color for quotes, another for summaries, another for paraphrases, and another for your own thoughts. Or, you can write Q, S, P, or Me.
  2. In the upper right corner, write the topic of the quote, summary, paraphrase, or your original thought.
  3. In the center, write your quote (use quotation marks), summary, paraphrase, or your original thought.

On the back of the card:

Write the citation, or some code for the citation info, like the author's last name and first few words of the title. Include the page number(s) too. If you use a code, be sure to have the complete citation info somewhere for later use.

Using a note-taking system like this will help you:

  • quickly distinguish quotes, summaries, paraphrases and your thoughts from one another
  • organize your information — you can shuffle and categorize your note cards based on the topics you've assigned them and write your outline faster
  • easily work in your citations as you write

Need more? See Resources for UCLA Students.