Finding Theme Topics and Gathering Information
1. Go to Critical works, Plot Summaries, Articles, Web
Sites, Books, and Databases and take general notes,
listing major ideas, themes, types of characters, or
other distinguishing characteristics of the author's
writing, or of the subject that you wish to
What do others have to say about your author or topic?
–You don't have to read whole articles.
through them, looking for specific references to your
topic, to things that this author usually does, or to ideas
which the author normally uses.
–Your purpose is merely to gather ideas, not to formally
begin writing your paper. Relax and enjoy roaming through
many sources - just to find good ideas
to write about.
2. For literary papers only, which will involve writing
about actual literary works, read literary critical sources
and take more
detailed notes, extracting from these
sources good quotes
which refer to specific ideas that
can be found in the author's works.
–Put each quote, using the "notepage" format [see
on a separate sheet of paper, including
necessary bibliographical information. These may be
used in your paper, though your purpose at this stage
is to develop ideas which can be used in
3. Make an easily readable list of possible ideas or topics,
keeping it next to you and referring to it frequently as
you continue to do your research.
decide which ideas would work best in your
paper. Especially look for progression of ideas,
etc., so that you can end with the most
significant idea - after working to the end in logical steps.
5. While doing extensive reading in the author's works
for nonliterary papers, in your sources, create
"Andrews' Note cards," which we will call "notepages,"
on regular 8 ½ by 11" notebook paper, copying quotes
that give specific detailed examples of the ideas that
you have chosen to emphasize.
A. Only have
one example per page and
use only the front of a page - never
Go to a new piece of paper when you reach the bottom.
Following this suggestion with judicious use of
binding clips will make your individual pieces of
paper will much more manageable when you
putting the final paper together.
B. Write the idea in the upper right hand corner so that
you will later be able to sort your examples by idea.
C. Put bibliographical information at the top center
notebook paper for your citations and works cited page.
an example includes details of something
happening, or of someone doing or saying
which actually illustrates the idea. A vague
that the idea exists in the work is not a real example.
E. Put good-sized quotes
in raw, unedited form on your
"notepage." Substantial quotes will help you to remember
the exact context of the quote when you are actually
putting your paper together.They can be edited later
into a more manageable size.
6. Above the quote
- after you have placed a quote in the
middle of your "notepage," write in your own words
background information is necessary for
understanding the quote.
– It is very important to write the background while the
material is fresh in your mind. You may have only a
vague memory of the context a month
later, when you
are working on the final draft of your paper.
7. Make sure that you choose examples which are
good analysis (which have good
"bullability"), as a significant portion of your grade
will be based on the quality of your analysis.
Lousy examples = lousy analysis.
8. You should end up with a nice pile of items which
possibly be used in your paper. Some may not be used,
but if you have created a "notepage" for every significant
possible idea, you should still have some very good
material mixed in with some stuff that might
not be so great.
9. Put together all examples of each separate idea
in separate piles, clipping them together with those
nice solid binding clips.
Within each pile, decide which
examples would best illustrate the ideas in your paper.
those for your paper.
10. Plagiarism is the stealing of an author's words
or ideas without giving credit to the author.
It is considered impressive if you show your
many authors by quoting them, but it is considered theft
to use an author's words or ideas without giving credit.
Such theft can result in a person's getting an
in the course or being kicked out of college
Make sure all material is properly cited.
You have now created a well-organized mass
from which you should easily be able to write
a good paper. Almost everything you need is in the pile.
If you have thoroughly prepared your material, you
be able to complete most of your final paper, using only
your "notepages," without having
to go back to
your sources. Good preparation can make the final
process go much more quickly