Step-By-Step Development of a Research Paper
"Langston Hughes and the Invention of the Blues Poem"

Step 3: Take Notes

Before he began taking notes, Luke created a rough outline to organize his thoughts. The outline's hierarchical form helped him put in order related issues that he wanted to cover in his research paper. This is the working outline Luke created:

The Poetry of Langston Hughes
  1. Hughes comes to Harlem
    1. Blues music: W. C. Handy, Bessie Smith
    2. Cotton Club: Duke Ellington
    3. Shuffle Along (1921): first major black revue
  2. Influences on Hughes
    1. Whitman, Sandburg, Lindsay, Dunbar
    2. DuBois, Johnson
  3. Blues poetry
    1. Explanation of the "blues poem"
    2. "The Weary Blues"
    3. Other examples

As Luke gathered information from his sources, he followed the eight guidelines for taking notes. He made sure do the following for each note:

  • Organize your notes on cards or in a computer file;
  • Number each source;
  • Have one main idea per card;
  • Write a heading at the top of each note;
  • Put the information in your own words;
  • Put direct quotations in quotation marks;
  • Write the page number where you found the information;
  • Double-check your documentation so that the source number and page number or URL are correct.

To avoid plagiarism, he was especially careful to use big quotation marks for all words taken directly from his sources. His notes were a combination of key words or phrases, full sentences, and quotes. Here is one of Luke's note cards:

4

DuBois and Johnson on black music

DuBois and Johnson generally rejected the blues "as serious music." Ragtime, blues, and jazz apart from cultured image. Old Guard, together with Alain Locke, preferred spirituals.
pp. 20-27