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Postbib Yeshuist

What do you take notes *in* (not on)

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To explain the title: About two years ago, I decided to stop taking notes on laptops. I felt two things were happening: (1) the laptop had too much room for distraction and (2) I tried to get so much down, I became a scribe. I switched back to taking notes in a notebook of some kind and I immediately felt more involved in the classroom discussions (haven't been to a "lecture" in years), found I could take "better" notes since I could more easily use diagrams and jot down "rabbits," and found I had much more room on my desk (and fewer cords). I still carry a netbook, but it stays closed and in sleep mode unless I have to do something my iPhone can't handle.

The meat of the thread: I've been using Moleskine notebooks (the hardcover "large" ones) and they have been phenomenal. Easy to carry, about the same size as most paperbacks, durable, and they don't take up much space on the desk. The only problem is price. Even at Amazon, they run $12 on average. Since we're going to have to make some major financial cuts, I'm interested in cheaper alternatives. Ideally, it would be a "close" replacement of the Moleskine linked above, but I'm willing to consider other paper solutions except ringed/spiraled binders, etc. The old lab notebooks might be good, but they're still a bit too big for what I want and most are wide-ruled. I've looked at Black & Red, but they're still too big for my tastes. Any ideas?

PS In the event someone wants to turn this into a "laptops are the best way to take notes" thread... don't. You won't sway me, since my experience directly contradicts that claim. ;)

Edited by Postbib Yeshuist

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You said no spiral notebooks, but that's what I've found to be the best (used them for the last 5 years), due to the fact that I can fold them over and they take up half the space.

Specifically, I use law rule notebooks, with at least 20lb paper- no bleeding, and the 1/3-2/3 split of the law ruled paper helps me organize my notes a lot. If I keep notes on one side, I can do diagrams and definitions, annotations, etc on the other portion.

I assume you didn't want spiral due to durability issues, I guess it depends on the notebook. With 20lb paper, not only do you have no bleeding, but my notebooks from 5 years ago still have lost no pages.

Just my 2 cents.

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You said no spiral notebooks, but that's what I've found to be the best (used them for the last 5 years), due to the fact that I can fold them over and they take up half the space.

Specifically, I use law rule notebooks, with at least 20lb paper- no bleeding, and the 1/3-2/3 split of the law ruled paper helps me organize my notes a lot. If I keep notes on one side, I can do diagrams and definitions, annotations, etc on the other portion.

I assume you didn't want spiral due to durability issues, I guess it depends on the notebook. With 20lb paper, not only do you have no bleeding, but my notebooks from 5 years ago still have lost no pages.

Just my 2 cents.

I use the cheapest spiral notebook I can find or the one with the coolest cover for many of the same reasons. I once found a stack of dick tracy spiral notebooks at a thriftstore that had never been used. Musta been from 20 years ago. I also like legal pads but not for notes that I want to keep in the note book.

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I use the cheapest spiral notebook I can find or the one with the coolest cover for many of the same reasons. I once found a stack of dick tracy spiral notebooks at a thriftstore that had never been used. Musta been from 20 years ago. I also like legal pads but not for notes that I want to keep in the note book.

+1 for legal pads. I used to work at Staples and bought a ton of legal pads when they went on clearance so that a pack of 12 was about $4. I'm not quite sure where I'll turn once my supply runs out. Before the pads, I also used Moleskines and I think I might just make those my luxury item.

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I'm preferential to Moleskine myself, but I know that many of my friends use Paperchase products. They're probably about the same price, though, and I don't know if they lay quite as flat as a Moleskine or have similarly small ruling.

I've also been known to buy Paper Blanks books from time to time. (I believe they're sold at Borders in the US.) But, again, that's not any cheaper than Moleskine.

You may want to check out D*I*Y Planner or even ask the folks over there. They trend toward high end paper products (think Moleskine, Levenger, etc.), but there are creative people over there coming up with cheap and DIY solutions. There's even a whole forum devoted to notebooks.

If you're into DIY, there's a site to teach you how to make your own Moleskine-type notebooks.

You could also look into some of the refillable journal options. The covers can range from really reasonable to outrageously expensive (as can the refills). But then you'll have to decide what to do with the pages once you've swapped refills. I've never used these, so I don't have any specific recommendations.

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Well, you've had some people argue for spiral notebooks, and now I'll make an argument for some ringed binders:

I take a LOT of notes. Copious amounts. Buckets. I've never had a laptop to bring to class, moleskine and other bound books feel too formal (like I am writing something in stone and can't change it or move it around), and spiral notebooks stack up in a really unattractive way while also presenting problems with reorganization for studying or storage.

I prefer loose-leaf paper held in a binder, organized by tabs if necessary. Before class, I take out 10-15 sheets, depending on what kind of day it's going to be, and then I use the closed binder as my space-saving writing surface. I can tilt it up against the desk, so I'm not killing my shoulders and neck writing at a completely flat angle, and I can lean back into the chair while keeping an eye on professors and overhead projectors without doing the bobblehead move as much. After class, I put the new notes after the old notes in the binder, so things stay organized by lecture date.

The advantage to this system, in my mind, is that I can easily re-organize the notes by topic for studying. There are always those throw-away pages from the less important lectures, or my pages of to-do lists, etc etc-- the stuff I don't really need as a distraction when I'm pulling information into something compact, organized, and informative. That stuff gets set aside, obviously, and I have a nice clean set of notes that are always in order.

After the test, I can keep them organized by subject or reorganize them chronologically, and then they easily fit into a hanging folder in my files for later references. The binder can be re-used until it's falling apart, and I don't have to worry about boxes or shelves full of bound notes.

That being said, I'm thinking about investing in a new kind of loose-leaf system. The only bummer about using the binder as a writing surface is that a binder that is big enough to hold all of my notes, around 2", is so tilted from the spine that finding the right writing angles can be awkward at times. I'm going to look for some other options before this fall, but at least I know I have a cheap fall-back that has worked for 6 years now.

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I take notes on loose-leaf college-rule notebook paper, which I keep in manila file folders with printed-out readings and the course syllabus. Sometimes I organize these into 3-ring binders but lately it's been a whole lot of manila folders in my 2-drawer filing cabinet. My system works well for me, but it is a bit on the disorganized side.

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I'd second the vote for a binder and loose leaf. I'm left handed and I don't like having to lean on a spiral. I take out a few sheets of paper before class and stick the binder back in my bag, I use tabbed dividers to separate each class. It allows for reorganization without destroying the pages, I have all notes from all of my classes with me at all times, and it's easy to hole punch and add in any handouts with the notes for that day. I also like that I'm not wasting pages in subject notebooks when a class doesn't require a ton of notes or having to store and remember to bring two notebooks to a class that I've taken a lot of notes in It's been really cost effective, I bought a more expensive heavy plastic binder that's lasted 3 years and still looks nice. It also doesn't require a ton of oomph to open it there are easy open options that don't require the pulling apart. The cheaper cardboard center covered in plastic are usually beat up in 2 years. The paper is pretty reasonably priced in bulk. You can get binders in smaller sizes since you don't want to carry anything big.

To get the most like the moleskin look at journals, I picked mine up at Target on sale for $5. If you are tolerant of cheesy sayings or willing to do a little work on the cover there's a decent selection around $10. Barnes and Noble has some basic journals in $6 to $8 . Mead also used to make a 1 subject notebook that wasn't spiral but it's 8.5 x 11 and I can't remember the last time I saw one in stores.

I did a little googling and I'm so surprised that there aren't more spiral alternatives, I know so many people that hate them. Screw grad school I should start making notebooks. biggrin.gif

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I'd second the vote for a binder and loose leaf. I'm left handed and I don't like having to lean on a spiral. I take out a few sheets of paper before class and stick the binder back in my bag, I use tabbed dividers to separate each class. It allows for reorganization without destroying the pages, I have all notes from all of my classes with me at all times, and it's easy to hole punch and add in any handouts with the notes for that day. I also like that I'm not wasting pages in subject notebooks when a class doesn't require a ton of notes or having to store and remember to bring two notebooks to a class that I've taken a lot of notes in It's been really cost effective, I bought a more expensive heavy plastic binder that's lasted 3 years and still looks nice. It also doesn't require a ton of oomph to open it there are easy open options that don't require the pulling apart. The cheaper cardboard center covered in plastic are usually beat up in 2 years. The paper is pretty reasonably priced in bulk. You can get binders in smaller sizes since you don't want to carry anything big.

To get the most like the moleskin look at journals, I picked mine up at Target on sale for $5. If you are tolerant of cheesy sayings or willing to do a little work on the cover there's a decent selection around $10. Barnes and Noble has some basic journals in $6 to $8 . Mead also used to make a 1 subject notebook that wasn't spiral but it's 8.5 x 11 and I can't remember the last time I saw one in stores.

I did a little googling and I'm so surprised that there aren't more spiral alternatives, I know so many people that hate them. Screw grad school I should start making notebooks. biggrin.gif

I'm left-handed too, and I never thought about it being a reason why I didn't like spirals. It's funny--I disliked kitschy stuff like "The Left-Handed Store," because I just learned to deal or adapt to living in a right-handed world. There were some things I was just never good at, and it took some more thought to realize that it was often a directional thing that tied back to being a lefty. For instance, I always thought I was just really bad at using the simple hinge-style corkscrews for opening wines, and then I realized that the direction of the spiral was opposite what it should have been, so where I'm holding and turning the bottle with my dominant/nondominant hands has always looked wrong and been a little less efficient. I can't tell you how many customers tried to teach me how to use a corkscrew, because they didn't like the way I was handling the bottle. Bah.

Your other reasons are also true for me, and well-stated. Vive le binder!

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I'm left-handed too, and I never thought about it being a reason why I didn't like spirals. It's funny--I disliked kitschy stuff like "The Left-Handed Store," because I just learned to deal or adapt to living in a right-handed world. There were some things I was just never good at, and it took some more thought to realize that it was often a directional thing that tied back to being a lefty. For instance, I always thought I was just really bad at using the simple hinge-style corkscrews for opening wines, and then I realized that the direction of the spiral was opposite what it should have been, so where I'm holding and turning the bottle with my dominant/nondominant hands has always looked wrong and been a little less efficient. I can't tell you how many customers tried to teach me how to use a corkscrew, because they didn't like the way I was handling the bottle. Bah.

Your other reasons are also true for me, and well-stated. Vive le binder!

Totally agree on the left handed stuff, I could never work left handed scissors and now I have a hard time when someone who is left handed tries to show me something since I'm so used to translating. It's weird because when I was little my parents (both right handed) thought there was something wrong with me because I couldn't learn to tie my shoes, my left handed grandma had to teach me.

I had to go open a bottle of wine to see how I do it biggrin.gif, I start out doing it "wrong" and end up switching hands so I'm holding the bottle and cork screw as a right handed person would.

I'm also picky about pens so the side of my hand doesn't get covered in ink.

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I'm a recent (re)convert to taking notes down on paper rather than my laptop. , don't do this from lectures as I type a lot faster than I write and I like having almost verbatim notes when the lectures are that good. But I have found written notes much better for note-taking from books or articles. I find this allows for slow reading, which I'm finding much more rewarding.

One thing I've always hated about notepaper was the dark lines, which often competed with the words on the page. A few months ago I discovered "Whitelines", where the paper is light grey itself, and the lines are white. Now I haven't been able to use anything else. The added advantage is that if you need to photocopy, the lines don't show up.

They have a ton of different sizes, including hard-bound, wire notebooks, pads, etc. They also have grids in case you need to graph or draw, etc.

For note-taking, the one I use the most is the lined saddle-stitched A4 size, which costs about $4.50 a pad (48 sheets). They're easily foldable without the wire to obstruct lefties. You can't find them in many stores right now, but they do have them on Amazon.

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I'm a big fan of notebooks with ivory paper instead of white. It is easier on your eyes than the stark contrast between the bright white paper and the dark ink. Mead used to make them, but I haven't seen them in stores for a while. You can still find them online. Also, it's very important to me that the paper is 8.5 x 11. Why? I don't know, I guess I'm just that obsessive. You know, probably like the rest of you...

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If the lectures are posted on blackboard, then I don't usually take a lot of notes at all. I will simply bring a spiral notebook to jot down things that don't appear on the Power Point slides. I find I learn better if I am actually listening to the professor rather than frantically trying to write down everything up on the screen.

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I am amused by the fact that my writing habits have changed since my last post on this thread-- which I wrote before I had actually started school. Now, instead of a big honkin' binder with neat dividers (which I tried for about five weeks last term) I just write on cheap college-lined looseleaf paper that I keep in a recyclable two-pocket folder with only the most essential or recent handouts and notes-- syllabi, to-do readings etc. About once a week, things DO get organized into that big honkin' binder with neat dividers, but that monster stays at home. This method means I don't always have everything at my fingertips while I'm on campus, but saves my bag, my back/shoulders, and gives me more room for books and the lunches I'm packing from home to save moneys.

Binders are getting expensive, too. This means less wear and tear on the big guy, and I can just go through one or two 90 cent folders per term and toss them in the recycling when they've reached the end of the line.

Note-taking strategies have changed significantly as well, to fit the discussion-based seminars as opposed to lectures. But that's another thread!

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I use Circa notebooks from Levenger.com. The paper can get pricy, but you can also just get the punch and punch regular three-hole paper or plain copy paper. I have notebooks in all the sizes (you can put smaller paper in larger books and mix and max and re-arrange and just go crazy. I scan them into Evernote.com and mark them "scanned" and then shred and recycle the paper whenever the pages no longer have immediate utility. The beauty of this is that you can write your notes, but you can also always get your notes (I can even get them on my Smartphone if I don't have my computer around, so it is very, very, very portable).

I also use 3x5 cards and have one of those 3x5 wallet organizers (mine is from Levenger, but I've seen them at Staples). They can also be punched to fit into a Circa project, and then later they get Evernote'ed and shredded too. The 3x5s I can even photograph with my phone to get them into Evernote.

BTW, I *love* my scanner and I did some serious research to select it, so I'll mention that it is a Cannon P-150. I also bought a wand scanner (aka stick scanner), but it's too fiddly with the image card and I don't use it. If there were one that had a USB cord it would be better for me.

Edited by crayolacat

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For more than five years now I've been using Environotes notebooks. They're well-bound, with a front cover that can be folded under the notebook if necessary; and they're only about $4 each. And they're recycled!

(Personally, I find I'm much happier with notebooks than loose-leaf paper; it's easier to keep everything in one place that way, and single notebooks take up a lot less room on the shelf than multiple half-filled binders.)

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I'm left-handed too, and I never thought about it being a reason why I didn't like spirals. It's funny--I disliked kitschy stuff like "The Left-Handed Store," because I just learned to deal or adapt to living in a right-handed world. There were some things I was just never good at, and it took some more thought to realize that it was often a directional thing that tied back to being a lefty. For instance, I always thought I was just really bad at using the simple hinge-style corkscrews for opening wines, and then I realized that the direction of the spiral was opposite what it should have been, so where I'm holding and turning the bottle with my dominant/nondominant hands has always looked wrong and been a little less efficient. I can't tell you how many customers tried to teach me how to use a corkscrew, because they didn't like the way I was handling the bottle. Bah.

Your other reasons are also true for me, and well-stated. Vive le binder!

I, too, am a lefty. Instead of buying the expensive left-handed spirals, I simply start at the back and work my way forward.

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Another vote for loose-leaf paper + 3-ring binder. This allows me to store my syllabus, handouts etc. in the same storage unit as my handwritten notes. Also, if I forget my binder at home or something, I can easily take notes on a loose piece of paper and add it later.

I am a copious note-taker. There's something about the act of writing stuff down that helps me remember it later. (I usually don't go back and look at my notes ever--I just need to write something to remember it.)

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For my non-major classes, I generally take notes on a sheet of 8 1/2" x 11" plain white paper. I name the class and date the top of the paper. Then, usually that same night but sometimes a day or two later, I transcribe the notes into a program called Notebook (for Mac), though lately I have been also keeping them in a database called DevonThink in RTF format. Though now that I have a new scanner, I may just scan the handwritten notes into a PDF file and add them to the database.

For my major classes, I tend not to take notes at all. In the 2 grad classes I took this semester, where each class revolved around discussion of 1 or 2 specific books, I recorded the class and then entered that into the database. I keep folders on my computer for each semester with subfolders for each class. Each class folder has individual folders for "texts/handouts," "papers/assignments," and "recordings."

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I, too, am a lefty. Instead of buying the expensive left-handed spirals, I simply start at the back and work my way forward.

Question: What is the difference between the left-handed spirals and just flipping a regular spiral over and writing on the "back" of the pages? I'm semi-ambidextrous, and whenever one section of my spiral fills up (I write one-sided only), I flip the spiral over and begin writing on the back of the same sheets working my way toward the front of the section, leaving the spiral side of the notebook on the right. This makes it very comfortable to write left-handed.

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This topic makes me happy. I thought I was the only one that was so particular about school supplies. When I was younger, I would bring binders AND notebooks on the first day of class to see which was the most appropriate for the class.

I would get so excited to go back to school just so I could take the annual trip to Staples with my dad.

That being said - I still bring both notebook and binder to the first day of class. If it is a powerpoint-oriented class, I use a binder to organize things in but usually only bring that week's worth of notes in a folder. (Preferably a folder with a cute animal on it. Or Lisa Frank)

If it is a notebook kind of class, I try to either get those Mead Five Star Notebooks when they are on sale for a dollar at Target or Walmart. A few years ago, Staples had these recycled-paper notebooks with hard cardboard covers on sale for 25 cents. I bought 10 and am just running out. =/

Usually the recycled paper is pretty crappy but these were amazing. I guess I will have to go back to my Mead Notebooks. I then usually type up my notes (unless it is for a math class in which case I do not have the patience) at the end of the week to force myself to go through them.

I once did a Moleskine for a calc class but I was so compulsive about being neat that I ended up buying one of those cheapo notebooks, taking class notes in that and then transferring it into the Moleskine. (Sometimes, I am a little anal and it definitely comes out in my class organizational skills!)

Edit: I forgot to post the notebooks I use from Staples, they are great! The paper is so smooth and obviously not Moleskine quality but I like it. They come in a bunch of sizes. They are made from some sort of sugarcane waste.

http://www.staples.com/Sustainable-Earth-by-Staples-Eco-Friendly-Notebook-9-1-2-x-6/product_749565

http://www.staples.com/Staples-Eco-Friendly-Composition-Notebook/product_749566?cmArea=sku_pd_box1

Edited by eat.climb.love

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i second a vote for environotes. some of their notebooks have internal pockets to hang onto syllabi or assignments, so they remain preferable to binders for me.

and even though this thread is about notebooks and not computers, if i'm being honest, i use the computer far more than my notebook. so far, the notebook is only pulled out for an undergrad language class i'm taking and the undergrad lecture i TA for. i use a laptop for all of my grad coursework. i type notes for every book i read and then type in notes from seminar discussions into the same file. it is time-consuming, it is tedious, it slows my reading-rate way down, but it still works for me. in seminar i can scroll or do a keyword search if i'm trying to find a certain note quickly. when i'm writing a paper, particularly end of semester historiography papers that require a synthesis of 14 books, the keyword search function is an absolute life-saver. when the time comes to write my comps, printing out all of my typed notes will be much easier than digging through six semesters' worth of notebooks and trying to decipher my chicken scrawl.

just thought i'd put it out there. it's definitely a slower process at the moment. i can only read 20 pages/hour instead of 30 pages because i constantly stop to type my notes, but the extra time now will save me having to re-read 150 books for comps because half my notes are scribbled in the margins.

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