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A. Grouping Your Notes


  • Look back at your writing prompt and notice how it’s framed. Remember that the “trigger word” in your topic will give you a clue as to how to structure your paper.
  • Look for patterns within your notes, and pull out major ideas you found.
  • Determine how you can build a response to the prompt using support from your research.

At this point, look back at the writing prompt. Remember how it was phrased? What was the “trigger word”? What does it tell you about how to structure your paper?

Arrange your notes in categories

(using notecards, EasyBib’s Notebook tool, or whatever method you prefer) – Group your notes in a way that makes sense based on your writing prompt.

  • If your essay is a “compare and contrast” essay, you may want to group your notes by “similarities” and “differences.”
  • If your essay prompt says to “list,” then you may want to group your notes chronologically or by order of importance.
  • If your essay prompt says something like, “discuss” or “analyze,” then group your notes in a way that makes the most logical argument. For example, if you’re topic is “Discuss the political undertones in Ann Rand’s The Fountainhead,” your grouping should be based on the trends you see in your notes. Maybe your notes make groups based on the characters, the part of the book, or the aspect of politics being discussed.

Think about transitions and topic sentences

– At this point in your paper-writing process, you should have a good idea about how your groupings of ideas (notes) relate to one another. These relations will form the basis for your transitions later on when you go to draft your paper. You should have an idea for what your transitions will sound like based on how one paragraph (or grouping) flows into the next.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a paper on global warming. You do some exhaustive research and come up with a linear ordering of the following groups. The key ideas in each group will become your topic sentences later on:

  1. The Earth is warming
  2. Some people think it is because of humans are emitting CO2 in increasing amounts
  3. Others think that the effect of humans is minimal compared to that of the natural Earth
  4. Politicians are concerned about the issue

With this grouping, you can easily construct beautiful transitions for your paper. Observe:

[Paragraph about how the Earth is warming.]

Although scientists are in general agreement that the Earth is warming, they are divided about what is causing global temperature increases. Some scientists believe that… [Paragraph about the scientists that think global warming is caused by humans emitting CO2 in increasing amounts.]

Other scientists believe that global warming cannot be attributed to increased human emissions…[Paragraph about the other group of scientists.]

Despite the absence of complete scientific agreement on the causes of global warming, politicians have drafted legislation to help mitigate any negative effects of temperature increases…[Paragraph about politicians and what they have been doing.]

See how it all works out? Your major groupings become your topic sentences, and the relationship between each group provides your transitions. It’s as easy as that.


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