Our culture emphasizes action, and we often put a high priority on “getting the job done.” We do not often allow time to reflect. But reflection is well worth the time, because it can yield valuable insights.
For each key source, think about
the frame of reference or set of assumptions the source is working from
the arguments and logic the source uses
your reactions to what you read
Reflection involves questioning assumptions, including our own. This requires courage and humility, because it includes an awareness that our own perspective is limited and that we may be wrong.
As Adler and Van Doren point out, you must be able to understand something before you can judge it fairly (1972, pp. 142-143). If you prematurely judge something, you may be rejecting something not on its merits, but based on your on prejudices. You may also prevent yourself from learning something new.
You may or may not change your opinion, but reflection will help you develop your own ideas. You are building a strong basis for developing an original piece of work that draws on several perspectives.
Write down thoughts that arise out of your critical reflection about each key source.
Organize notes and ideas
Compare the information and ideas of different sources as they relate to your topic. In what different ways do the sources address the questions you asked yourself about your topic?
See what themes emerge from your comparisons, and organize your notes around these themes or issues. This organization is yours. It will make your research unique and thus valuable.
Once again, write down any good ideas that occur to you as you work. Organize these notes along with your other notes, wherever you are collecting them.