Writing from notes, paraphrasing and quoting are the three methods you have for transferring information which you learned from a text to your thesis. In this post, I’ll show you why you’ll get better grades writing from notes than you will by paraphrasing source texts. Also, I’ll give you three important tips about sourcing your texts during the note-taking stage to make your thesis referencing easier during the writing stage.
Generally, directly quoting your sources should account for no more than 20% of your thesis. However, check this percentage with your course supervisor since it differs between universities, faculties and disciplines of study. In general, though, this means that upwards of 80% of your thesis must be in your own words.
The reason why a student might prefer to paraphrase sentences from a source text is easy to understand. Usually, it’s because they lack confidence in their ability to write suitable academic sentences by themselves. Sure, it’s daunting to write formal or professional sounding sentences in your second language.
However, because the student’s first language is not English, a paraphrased sentence often sounds unnatural, forced or it just simply doesn’t make sense. By contrast, when that same student writes from his or her notes of the source text, the resulting sentences sound more natural, they flow logically and they can be more easily understood by the professor.
Example of Paraphrasing vs Writing from Notes
Which of the two student-written paragraphs below, A or B, is more natural and, therefore, easier for your professor to understand?
“One of the most delightful demonstrations of all of the above principles coming together involves the hummingbird. These small birds have the ability to beat their wings at up to 80 beats per second and, as is well known, can hover, fly backwards, forwards, and sideways with ease. Speeds of 50 miles an hour are commonplace for these flying marvels. Fuel must be replenished very quickly because of the great turnover of energy. Consequently, the bird must feed on a food which can be broken down quickly into energy.
“All this is achieved by feeding on the nectar of flowers, which requires the ability to hover and a thin long beak to get into the flower (e.g., a fuchsia for the rufous hummingbird). The bird also has a special tongue with two furrows, enabling the nectar to be stored on it. The long tongue goes in and out of the bill, at an unbelievable rate of 13 times per second and, when retracted, is curled up at the back of the head.
“One can envisage the odd scenario of the supposedly half-evolved hummingbird either with the ability to hover and a sparrow beak, unable to feed, or the longMcIntosh, A 2013, ‘Mathematics’, in JF Ashton (ed.), In Six Days: Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation, Master Books, USA, pp. 164-5
beakbut no ability to hover, which would mean flying into the flower with no ability to stop! All the requirements must be there tobegin with.”
A. Student’s Attempt at Paraphrasing
According to McIntosh (2013, pp.164-5), a most wonderful performance of each of the ideas above joining as one centres around the hummingbird. These tiny flying animals can flap their wings as many as 80 flaps in a second. As I’m sure you already know, they can also levitate, fly in reverse, advance and fly to the left or the right simply. Moreover, velocities of 80 kilometres per 60 minutes are common ground for these wonders of flight. In turn, food which can be burned to produce power needs to be supplemented highly rapidly because of the massive overturn of power. In consequence, the flying animal needs to eat a meal which might be dissolved fast into power.
McIntosh (2013,pp.164-5) goes on to discuss how everything in this is a result of eating nectar from the seed-bearing part of the plant. Therefore, the hummingbird must have the capability to levitate and a skinny lengthy mouth to enter that seed-bearing part (for instance, a fuchsia). The flying animal, in addition, has a great tongue with double-wrinkles, making possible the nectar to be kept on it. Incredibly, the lengthy tongue enters and exits the beak, at
You might perceive the uneven incident of the apparently 50%-evolved hummingbird with either the capability to levitate and a sparrow mouth, incapable to eat. Alternatively, you might perceive it to have a lengthy mouth yet the inability to levitate, which should equate to the bird jetting into the seed-bearing part of the plant with the inability to cease! Therefore, every one of these necessities needs to be present from the start (McIntosh 2013, pp.164-5).
B. Student’s Attempt at Writing from Notes
- Hummingbird example
- Wings beat 80 times/sec. Hover + move any direction. 50mph normal (80kmph = local terms)
- Hence, constantly needs fuel. Fuel which converts to energy quickly
- Flower’s nectar = food/fuel
- Requirements for eating nectar: hover (to position hummingbird) + thin long beak (to enter even long flowers; e.g.fuchsia) + long tongue (to reach & retrieve nectar) + 2 furrows in tongue (store nectar on tongue during retrieval)
- Tongue enters flower 13 times/sec. Coils up, back of
- 1/2 -evolved hummingbird?
hoversbut lacking right beak & tongue – i.e. can’t reach/retrieve nectar
- Or can’t hover but has right beak & tongue – i.e. positioning issue/crashes into
- Hence, all requirements for eating needed at
startof hummingbird’s historical existence. Or else it couldn’t eat!
Student’s Paragraph when Writing from Notes
According to McIntosh (2013,pp.164-5), the hummingbird flaps its wings 80 times a second. Surprisingly, the hummingbird not only hovers but also moves in any direction, including backwards. Furthermore, the hummingbird can even fly at speeds of 80 kilometres per hour.
McIntosh (2013, pp.164-5) goes on to discuss how the hummingbird, therefore, needs a regular supply of energy from food. It gets this energy from nectar. This is because nectar converts from its physical form into energy quickly after being eaten. To do this, hummingbirds have four key tools. First, the ability to hover in position. Second, a thin long beak to enter even long flowers (such as the fuchsia). Third, a long tongue to reach the nectar at the base of the flower’s petals. Finally, two furrows in the tongue to store the nectar during its retrieval. Amazingly, although the tongue is very long, it protrudes out of the hummingbird’s beak and into the flower at up to 13 times per second, coiling into the back of the head upon return.
Now, considering this from an evolutionary point of view, there appears to be an issue with the theory which requires explanation. If the hummingbird evolves from a reptile, for example, or another type of bird, it must have evolved from one stage to the next. Therefore, at some stage of evolution, the hummingbird must have had the ability to hover and position itself to retrieve nectar from flowers but lacked the necessary beak and tongue. Alternatively, it must have lacked the ability to hover and position itself but had the necessary beak and tongue. If the former, the hummingbird was not able to retrieve the nectar from flowers. If the latter, the hummingbird kept crashing into flowers. Either way, the hummingbird was unable to eat pollen on demand and lacked the regular supply of energy it required. This means, since evolution centres around survival of the fittest by species with an evolutionary advantage, the hummingbird would have become extinct in either of these scenarios. In conclusion, the hummingbird would never have been able to progress to its next stage in evolution which is having both the ability to hover plus the necessary beak and tongue required for it to retrieve nectar from flowers (McIntosh 2013, pp.164-5).
Tips for Writing from Notes
First, every time you take notes, draw lines from your notes to the reference used. This avoids confusion regarding which notes are from which sources later when you type your thesis.
Second, write down the page numbers alongside the notes you take. This is not only useful for referencing but also when you want to go back and check the original source.
Finally, I recommend getting into the habit of writing down all the information for your source text with the first note you take from that source. This way you don’t need to go looking for that text again later when you realise you forgot to write down the details of the source text.
Task: Writing from Notes
Now it’s your turn. First, take notes from the following paragraphs. Then, rewrite the text in your own words using your notes.
1. “River houses can be found in the Central Plains. The ‘khlongs’ of early Bangkok (see p121) had many floating shop-houses. Such houses are very practical in areas prone to seasonal flooding. Houses can either be anchored to posts above the water line, or built on bamboo rafts so that during flood conditions they are able to float on the rising waters.”Thiro, R. ed. 2004, Thailand, Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, p.33.
2. “The Khmer texts are altogether different. The overwhelming majority are in the form of inventories, listing the temple’s possessions, such as land, livestock, servants, and furnishings. These lists cannot be regarded as exhaustive, becauseJacques C. and Dumont R., 1999, Angkor, trans. J Carroll, Konemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Cologne, pp.16-17.
generallythey include only gifts from a particular individual (often the founder celebrated in the Sanskrit poem,when there are inscriptions in both languages). Nevertheless, they are a potential source of valuable information on the economy of the time, though as yet they have hardly been studied.”
3. “The history of the Port Adelaide Football Club dates back to its founding on 12 May 1870. Since the club’s first game on 24 May 1870, it has won 36 SANFL premierships, including six in a row. The club also won the Champions of Australia competition on a record four occasions. In 1997, the club joined the Australian Football League — the only pre-existing non-Victorian club to have done so — and subsequently added the 2004 AFL Premiership to its achievements.”Wikipedia 2018, History of the Port Adelaide Football Club, Wikipedia Foundation Inc., viewed 10 December 2018, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Port_Adelaide_Football_Club>.
Possible Answers: Writing from Notes
Here are my possible answers. Other answers are obviously possible so check your personal answers with your local English teacher.
1. My Notes
- River houses – central plains
- Floating shop-houses – ‘Khlongs’ (canals) of early Bangkok, central plains.
- Practical – areas of flooding.
- Anchored above water line to posts OR on floating bamboo rafts.
1. My Paragraph when Writing from Notes
Thiro (2004, p.33) reports that in Bangkok and the central plains where there is regular seasonal flooding, some Thais live in river houses and floating shop-houses even. These are typically built over the water in ‘khlongs’ (canals). They are highly practical because they are anchored to posts above the water line or constructed on floating bamboo rafts, thereby providing safety to the occupants inside.
2. My Notes
- Khmer texts – mainly lists of temple’s possessions incl. land, animals, servants, furnishings.
- Lists not complete though – usually lists of an individual’s gifts.
- Still offer important info re. the economy then.
- These lists require further study.
2. My Paragraph when Writing from Notes
According to Jacques and Dumont (1999 pp.16-17), ancient Khmer texts generally comprise lists of gifts offered to a temple by an individual. Unfortunately, these lists do not cover all of the temple’s possessions or provide details of everyday life in the civilisation of the day. Nevertheless, they still offer a degree of insight into the economy at that time via the land, animals, servants and furnishings detailed in those lists. Hence, these lists obviously warrant further study accordingly.
3. My Notes
- Port Adelaide Football Club history.
- Founded – 12 May,1870.
- Won 36 x South Australian National Football League/SANFLpremierships – incl. 6 consecutive.
- Won record 4 x Champions of Australia.
- Joined Australian Football League/AFL – 1997. Only non-Victorian club elevated from non-Vic league to AFL. Won 1st AFL premiership– 2004.
3. My Paragraph when Writing from Notes
The proud Port Adelaide Football Club was founded in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) in 1870. Since then, it has averaged one grand final victory approximately every four years. In fact, the club has accumulated 36 grand finals wins in the state-level competition to date, including six consecutive grand final wins. In addition, it is the only club of any football league to have won four Champions of Australia. On the back of its success, the Port Adelaide Football Club is the only non-Victorian club to be elevated into the Australian Football League (AFL), the current national competition. Since the club joined the AFL in 1997, it has continued its long tradition of success with its first AFL grand final victory in 2004 (Wikipedia 2018).
Jacques C. and Dumont R., 1999, Angkor, trans. J Carroll, Konemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Cologne, pp.16-17
Thiro, R. ed. 2004, Thailand, Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, p.33.
Wikipedia 2018, History of the Port Adelaide Football Club, Wikipedia Foundation Inc., viewed 10 December 2018, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Port_Adelaide_Football_Club>
This article was proofread with Grammarly.