Take appropriate notes


When you've recorded the source details, what do you write down in the notes? And how do you know what "appropriate notes" might be? This depends on what your reason for taking notes is.

Regardless of the sources, there are three main reasons for taking notes:

  • to select
  • to understand
  • to remember

We will look at the first reason - how to select relevant material that you might want to reproduce or adapt in your own work.

Whatever your reason for taking notes, you'll be dealing with information in a variety of forms, not simply text. Remember: plagiarism is not just about words, it's about ideas, data and images too.


If the precise detail of the information is of interest to you, you will want to reproduce the information in exactly the same way:

  • whether the information is text

    "The RNA polymerase covers about 30 bp of the template DNA..." (1).
    1. Brown T, Genomes, 2nd ed. Garland Science; 2002.

  • or an image:

    diagram clutch example

Image: Schematic diagram of a double clutch (a) and detailed cylinder model. In: WURM, A., BESTLE, D. 2015. Robust design optimization for improving automotive shift quality. Optimization and Engineering [online]. [viewed 13 April 2016]. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11081-015-9290-1.

However, if it is the idea rather than the detail which is of interest to you, you will want to adapt the information to suit your own needs (which might mean expanding on it or simplifying it). Here's an example:

        Approximately 30 base pairs of the template DNA are covered by the RNA polymerase (1).
1. Brown T, Genomes, 2nd ed. Garland Science; 2002.

Importantly, whether you are reproducing or adapting information you need to remember that both need referencing!