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Given that this is a forum filled with literature lovers and that we're almost all of us aiming for years and years of professional studenthood, I assume I'm hardly the only one here who loves taking notes. As we prepare to soldier forward into our respective programs, jobs, or other directions, I thought it would be fun to share our preferences when it comes to note-taking. This, of course, isn't an entirely selfless post -- I fully intend to steal everyone's ideas and cobble together a beautiful, killer note-taking strategy like a modern-day Victor Frankenstein (but with less gore and hopefully more future success).

I'll start where it counts: paper. For my entire career as a student, I relied on 70-cent spiral-bound (college-ruled) notebooks from Walmart; occasionally I would go crazy and take an entire's semester worth of notes in one multi-sectioned notebook, but more often than not, I'd keep a stack of the shabby single-subject things. I'm ready to move onward and upward, because as a professional student, don't I deserve to spend gobs of money on the best? Yesterday, one of my students revealed to me that he's using the Rocketbook Wave (?) notebook, which apparently uploads all his notes to the cloud and then returns to its blank state once it's microwaved. He swears by it, but I actually like the idea of having my physical notebooks gather dust on my bookshelves for the rest of my life. 

Pens! I swear by the Pilot G2 series, and I recently rage-purchased a box set of the .038 line after my one and only was stolen by a fellow teacher. I've taken notes in pencil before (and actually did the whole of my MA in pencil), but my problem there is that the pages always fade. Pen, though, bleeds through the paper to show on the other side, which makes for a messy look. Has anyone found a particular notebook that solves this conundrum? I know there exist oodles of notebooks with thicker paper, but I haven't bit the bullet just yet -- waiting on feedback.

On bullet journaling: I started that this year, and wow -- it's been perfect for me. I always hated spending money on planners that would inevitably remain largely empty, because I'm terrible at recording dates (and frankly, my life isn't interesting enough to have enough events to record in advance). The bullet journal has been great, though, because I can just design it to be specifically relevant to my life, and because it always has enough blank pages for my rambling, ambling, incoherent thoughts. I'm not certain I want to use it for note-taking as well, though, because that thing is going to fill up fast. It's always an option, of course.

What are your tips, strategies, and preferences for taking notes? Do you do it all in colored pen? Do you take notes on scrap pieces of paper? Once I knew a man who wrote all of his notes in highlighter, which astounded and horrified me (but to each his own!).

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Omg... the post of my dreams? Perhaps. I am also re-reading Frankenstein AS WE SPEAK, so that was also a kooky coincidence. 

Moleskine notebooks are nice but I wish they were spiral bound. I like handwritten notes and notebooks to collect and I always have; electronic note taking has never romanced me. My favorite pens are the Pilot "Precise" V7 (lol) in blue and black; uniball as honorable mention. Moleskine notebooks have thick enough paper that pens usually do not bleed through, but again, not spiral bound. I do keep a planner, but I also have a book for bullet journaling and list making. My favorite planner is actually the Hobonichi Techo planner. It is very cute, small, and the pages are just blank so you can use bullets or whatever; it's sort of a nontraditional planner and I love it. 

I have to keep my notes organized or I am less likely to reference them, so taking notes on scrap paper or loose paper is a no for me. I really like making charts and arrow charts as well, which often serve me for months after the course. So fun! I have never color coded notes and I am not big on highlighting, but I have definitely perfected the art of underlining. 

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So I was a rampant note-taker as an undergraduate, albeit on my laptop. I recognize that studies have "proven" that you retain knowledge better when writing notes by hand than typing them, but studies be damned -- typing worked much better for me. What I find extremely interesting, however, is that I barely take notes at graduate level. Maybe four typed pages per course by the end of the semester. It's truly counter-intuitive, but I find that at the graduate level, you have to be more invested in the level of discussion, and there's a lot more interplay, meaning that you only want to jot down salient points that you'll want to keep in mind for your own benefit. Since there are rarely exams etc., you don't need to take notes for those reasons either. I hasten to add that I might be an anomaly here -- I certainly see others taking a lot of notes in a given graduate course -- but I've gotten by just fine without doing much of it.

I am a rampant margin-writer, however. I'm constantly circling, underlining, bracketing, dashing, and writing comments beside items throughout critical essays or other texts. This is part of the reason why I like to own everything I read for class. I use colored Sharpie pens for my margin notes, as it stands out against the usual black of a text.

By the way, notes aside, I'm also very much a fan of Pilot G2 .38 pens, and buy them in bulk. There's never a day that goes by that I don't have two regular pens (usually a .38 and a .7) and a Sharpie pen in my pocket.

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2 minutes ago, Wyatt's Terps said:

I am a rampant margin-writer, however. I'm constantly circling, underlining, bracketing, dashing, and writing comments beside items throughout critical essays or other texts. This is part of the reason why I like to own everything I read for class.

SAME. I love going back to my books and looking at what I wrote in the margins, sometimes I find some really good ideas. 

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Great topic! I have 2 distinct styles of taking notes--one for class and another for texts. 

In class, I usually just write passive aggressive notes to myself that don't pertain to the subject matter. For example, in the first class period of my early Brit lit survey a few years back, the ONLY thing I wrote down about Gawain and the Green Knight//Dream of the Rood were the words "Yahoo! Toolbar" because the professor displayed a website to the entire class through the use of his personal laptop. The top of his web browser was LITTERED with adware toolbars, and he actually opted into using the Yahoo! one to conduct his search. I lost a ton of respect for him (which I quickly regained when he turned out to be one of the most helpful and insightful people that I've ever met). I know this sounds weird and as if I am not actually taking notes on the subject of the class, but getting my little snide shitty thoughts out on paper stops me from obsessing about them. In the same vein, I also write out questions/comments I had and couldn't bring to the attention of the class/professor (sometimes I'm not called upon, sometimes the conversation moves before I can contribute, ect). It allows me to move on with the conversation and be present in the class. I can pay better attention to the class if I don't have my own ideas rocketing around in my brain. Sometimes I even get paper ideas/topics from my scribblings! Langston Hughs gets me. He likes to talk about "dreams deferred," whereas I'm more concerned about ideas deferred. I don't want them "dry[ing] up like a raisin in the sun" or "explod[ing]" so I write them down.

When I'm reading, I like to use the "Star" method. I developed this when circumstances forced me to use library books. Like others, I am a terrible margin-writer, but I couldn't bring myself to desecrate public property with my shitty ideas. Instead, I--VERY LIGHTLY--etched small asterisks to the side of pertinent passages, then, in a notebook and sorted by page number, I wrote a sentence as to why the pertinent passage was important/what I was thinking. It's a great way to develop ideas without contributing to other student's mental jitter. It's a time-consuming process and I'm worried as to how it will hold up in my MA when I'm reading 3-5 books a week, but, as of now, this is my preferred way to read.

Would you be terribly upset if you checked out a book and saw this? How I ended up keeping the library book is a fun story for another time...
 gTkjXqI.jpg
 

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This is really a great topic!

I am thinking that I will have to be a super-note-taker because I am finding that my memory is not great when it comes to retaining facts about my readings.

One thing my teacher had us do for a high school AP class was to have notes per paragraph, first summarizing the main point(s), and then a bunch of other stuff that I don't think is as important. It was grueling and tedious but I think it helped A LOT.

As for notebook versus laptop, I am thinking I will want to ultimately keep all my notes on my Google Drive so that I can refer back to them... But maybe handwrite first? I don't know... My first semester will hopefully be a learning experience in that regard.

(But I also might steal some of y'alls ideas)

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I don't know how helpful my post is going to be...but I want to contribute! I always buy cheap matching 70 cent journals with folders. However, I never really take many notes in them. I've got what folks call hyperthymesia. I can remember specific days of my life and sort of relive them like I'm watching a movie play. So when I'm in a lecture I just sit at the front of the room and pay close attention to the professor. I don't really take any notes. Maybe I jot down a parallel idea I've had or something, but that's about it. When I was growing up it was more of a pain because I had no control over my perception of things, I'd mentally be distracted thinking about something that was bothering me in the middle of a class so then when I tried to remember what happened that day I'd just get led down this rabbit hole of memories about what was bothering me, how it all started, all the other days that I'd had similar thoughts. Anyway! Training myself and maturing a bit more emotionally has allowed me to hone in on this a little more.

I guess that's not really all that helpful to your note taking. Maybe my piece of advice is to remind you that it's important to not get so wrapped up in your note taking that you miss making your own connections? I'm not sure.

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I am a paper/pen snob, and I ended up unintentionally converting about 2/3 of my MA cohort to my system, including a couple of professors. 

Here it is: https://www.amazon.com/Travelers-Notebook-Brown-Leather-LB/dp/B000ZYF22M

Midori is a Japanese stationery company that makes gorgeous paper and a number of other organizational accoutrement. 

Is the notebook expensive for a notebook? You betcha. Mine was a gift.

Are there cheaper knockoffs that are just as nice and work just as well? Yep. https://www.etsy.com/market/fauxdori

Have I now had it for five years and would never write notes in anything else? Yep.

Is it refillable? Yep.

Can you fit like five of the notebooks in the cover and keep them separate and organized? Yep.

Can you buy moleskine or knockoff moleskine cahiers and have them trimmed down for free at Staples so you don't have to buy the expensive Midori paper? Yep.

Do they have an accessory binder that keeps your full notebooks archived for highly-organized future perusal? Yep. https://www.jetpens.com/Traveler-s-Notebook-Binder-011-Regular-Size/pd/13655?gclid=Cj0KEQiA0L_FBRDMmaCTw5nxm-ABEiQABn-VqaxdqILFJvcKr2aTe6C6oNcqQg4g_qtnwS68KzwDmlkaArmG8P8HAQ

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"Each night, without exception, you will pour your whiskey and take out your yellow legal pad and Pilot Precise V5 Extra Fine Rolling Ball Machine and write." - My fiction writing professor, sophomore year.

I swear, the man was sponsored by Pilot. He never used the word "pen" in class. He only said Pilot Precise V5 Extra Fine Rolling Ball Machine. 

But I learned a lot in his class and so I too started using yellow legal pads and Pilot Precise V5 Extra Fine Rolling Ball Machines. 

A little over a year ago, I was given a free pen at a school event with the school's name on it. It was a Bic Grip Roller, and it blew the PPV5EFRBM out of the water in every respect. It is my new pen of choice, after a four year romance with the PPV5EFRBM. The yellow legal pad has since been abandoned in favor of 9.5 in x 5.5 in spiral notebooks. I like the small size because there are so many instances where you just don't fill a full page with notes, so this feels much less wasteful.

In terms of method... I know I've only been out of school two years, but jumping back into notetaking is actually one of my largest sources of stress for reentering school. My notes are professional now (i.e. don't write anything down unless someone mentions something that I need to remember to do later). There used to be lots of circles and arrows and lists and definitions and counter definitions and now it's just things like "ask Sherry about the panel." 

I also wonder about notes on the reading. As an undergrad I didn't take too many notes on what I read, even though I probably should have. I figure that I'm going to be reading WAY more as a graduate student and that I will be responsible for keeping track of individual scholars and their arguments in a much more intensive way. I'm thinking about writing quick summaries of things that I read, just so that later I can remember the broad points of texts so I'm not standing around my apartment trying to remember who made which argument. Does anyone have better/alternate suggestions for notes on reading specifically?

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6 hours ago, positivitize said:

Great topic! I have 2 distinct styles of taking notes--one for class and another for texts. 

In class, I usually just write passive aggressive notes to myself that don't pertain to the subject matter. For example, in the first class period of my early Brit lit survey a few years back, the ONLY thing I wrote down about Gawain and the Green Knight//Dream of the Rood were the words "Yahoo! Toolbar" because the professor displayed a website to the entire class through the use of his personal laptop. The top of his web browser was LITTERED with adware toolbars, and he actually opted into using the Yahoo! one to conduct his search. I lost a ton of respect for him (which I quickly regained when he turned out to be one of the most helpful and insightful people that I've ever met). I know this sounds weird and as if I am not actually taking notes on the subject of the class, but getting my little snide shitty thoughts out on paper stops me from obsessing about them. In the same vein, I also write out questions/comments I had and couldn't bring to the attention of the class/professor (sometimes I'm not called upon, sometimes the conversation moves before I can contribute, ect). It allows me to move on with the conversation and be present in the class. I can pay better attention to the class if I don't have my own ideas rocketing around in my brain. Sometimes I even get paper ideas/topics from my scribblings! Langston Hughs gets me. He likes to talk about "dreams deferred," whereas I'm more concerned about ideas deferred. I don't want them "dry[ing] up like a raisin in the sun" or "explod[ing]" so I write them down.

When I'm reading, I like to use the "Star" method. I developed this when circumstances forced me to use library books. Like others, I am a terrible margin-writer, but I couldn't bring myself to desecrate public property with my shitty ideas. Instead, I--VERY LIGHTLY--etched small asterisks to the side of pertinent passages, then, in a notebook and sorted by page number, I wrote a sentence as to why the pertinent passage was important/what I was thinking. It's a great way to develop ideas without contributing to other student's mental jitter. It's a time-consuming process and I'm worried as to how it will hold up in my MA when I'm reading 3-5 books a week, but, as of now, this is my preferred way to read.

Would you be terribly upset if you checked out a book and saw this? How I ended up keeping the library book is a fun story for another time...
 gTkjXqI.jpg
 

I love your style! Oh man, my books are unrecognizable by the time I'm through with them. That's partly why I have to have two copies of the things that truly make an impression on me–by the time I'm done circling/scribbling/underlining in one book, the mass of text is too overwhelming to read! :P 

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6 hours ago, positivitize said:

Would you be terribly upset if you checked out a book and saw this? How I ended up keeping the library book is a fun story for another time...
 gTkjXqI.jpg
 

pl_card.jpg.252b9f8750329eb714c2a2c7266a37eb.jpg

I was telling @Warelin about this in a PM the other day -- whenever I open my copy of Paradise Lost, I come across this index card I wrote as an undergrad, giving a glib overview of the four main demon strategists in Pandaemonium. I'm sure I would have written it in the margins if there were room. :P


(For what it's worth, I'm totally a Mammon man. Things would have worked out MUCH better for everyone if they only followed his advice...)

Edited by Wyatt's Terps
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7 hours ago, positivitize said:

Would you be terribly upset if you checked out a book and saw this? How I ended up keeping the library book is a fun story for another time...
 gTkjXqI.jpg
 

To answer your question: no, it doesn't bother me at all. But I do think that how you ended up keeping the library book is a fun story for ANYTIME... :) 

6 hours ago, shoestofollow said:

As for notebook versus laptop, I am thinking I will want to ultimately keep all my notes on my Google Drive so that I can refer back to them... But maybe handwrite first? I don't know... My first semester will hopefully be a learning experience in that regard.

(But I also might steal some of y'alls ideas)

I'm terrible about notetaking on my computer...it's too easy to get distracted, and I remember more when I handwrite. I didn't take many notes during my MA, though, for the same reasons @Wyatt's Terps mentions...I'd get too absorbed in the discussion, and find myself just destroying the margins of my texts with notes and stars and highlighting. It's super helpful (and my new primary method for taking notes, though I did start doing this my junior year of my BA), but I also find that now I have to move 6 large bookshelves FULL of books across the country, because there's no way in HECK you'll catch me getting rid of my precious treasures now. haha At any rate, I think I'm going to try categorizing my notes on my Google Drive after handwriting them. I know it will be much more time consuming, but I imagine there will be two great benefits: 1) more time with the notes, and 2) easier searchability (yeah, just made up a word).

24 minutes ago, Wyatt's Terps said:

(For what it's worth, I'm totally a Mammon man. Things would have worked out MUCH better for everyone if they only followed his advice...)

Totally agree with you on that one. 

 

As for my pen and paper snobbery, I alternate between Sharpie and Uniball pens, all colored (though not for color-coding. I wish I could be that organized. It's just for fun, so I like to look at my notes). I also recently started purchasing Moleskine lined notebooks and I don't think I could ever go back. I do love spiral bound notebooks, but the size, portability, and general hardiness of Moleskines are fantastic/hard-to-beat, and I find myself jotting more thoughts down throughout the day because I always have one on hand. My advisor told me that I should head down that road as far back as my junior year of UG, but I didn't listen to him for like three years. I wish I had, he was right.

Also, I've used a planner religiously since I was in high school, and recently picked up a Create360 one from Michael's that allows you to buy stickers and insert your own pages and images and lists etc.etc. and it's the BEST thing ever. It made planning even MORE fun, which I wasn't sure was possible for a list-making nutcase like myself. 

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And, I love this topic.

I'm a fountain pen user in all things (grading, note-taking, journaling, etc.).

When it comes to taking notes on texts, I can't bring myself to write in books. But, I will print off an article and annotate the heck out of it. Other than that, I take notes in journals as I read, and I'm one of those weirdos who takes almost verbatim notes in class - I write very fast (and not at all legibly by anyone but me).

I'm also looking forward to the summer when I can tap back into Scrivener. I started using it a bit last semester, and it's been so great for plotting out and composing larger writing projects. I highly recommend it (and you can try it out for free). 

Edited by engphiledu
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19 minutes ago, engphiledu said:

And, I love this topic.

I'm a fountain pen user in all things (grading, note-taking, journaling, etc.).

When it comes to taking notes on texts, I can't bring myself to write in books. But, I will print off an article and annotate the heck out of it. Other than that, I take notes in journals as I read, and I'm one of those weirdos who takes almost verbatim notes in class - I write very fast (and not at all legibly by anyone but me).

I'm also looking forward to the summer when I can tap back into Scrivener. I started using it a bit last semester, and it's been so great for plotting out and composing larger writing projects. I highly recommend it (and you can try it out for free). 

YAS, a fountain pen enthusiast! What's your favorite pen/ink? My current favorite is the Visconti Van Gogh series with a fine nib and J. Herbin ink.

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On 2/24/2017 at 8:21 PM, orphic_mel528 said:

YAS, a fountain pen enthusiast! What's your favorite pen/ink? My current favorite is the Visconti Van Gogh series with a fine nib and J. Herbin ink.

Gah, I hate the favorite question! I just love all my pens and inks for different reasons, so I hate to say I can't answer your question. But, as of right now, I'm currently grading with a Pilot VP inked with Diamine Merlot, a Platinum 3776 Bourgogne inked with Iroshizuku Ino-Ha, and a Sheaffer 100 with Lamy Turquoise. My husband and I both collect and restore, so we've always got various pens on us. 

I haven't gone into the Visconti line yet! (I've been scared to, honestly, because I'm afraid I'll like their pens too much and want more expensive models...). What J. Herbin ink are you using? I love using the Bleu Ocean with my juicy nibs, but the gold flakes are a pain to clean out of some feeds. 

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1 minute ago, engphiledu said:

Gah, I hate the favorite question! I just love all my pens and inks for different reasons, so I hate to say I can't answer your question. But, as of right now, I'm currently grading with a Pilot VP inked with Diamine Merlot, a Platinum 3776 Bourgogne inked with Iroshizuku Ino-Ha (Rice Ear), and a Sheaffer 100 with Lamy Turquoise. My husband and I both collect and restore, so we've always got various pens on us. 

I haven't gone into the Visconti line yet! (I've been scared to, honestly, because I'm afraid I'll like their pens too much and want more expensive models...). What J. Herbin ink are you using? I love using the Bleu Ocean with my juicy nibs, but the gold flakes are a pain to clean out of some feeds. 

I know what you mean about the favorite question. I guess what I was really asking was, "Which one are you using the most right now?" 

I bought a bottle of the Vert Reseda over the summer because it's such a nice turquoise (a little more to the green side of turquoise than Lamy's) and I haven't been able to stop since.   

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34 minutes ago, engphiledu said:

I'm a fountain pen user in all things (grading, note-taking, journaling, etc.).

14 minutes ago, orphic_mel528 said:

YAS, a fountain pen enthusiast! What's your favorite pen/ink? My current favorite is the Visconti Van Gogh series with a fine nib and J. Herbin ink.

3 minutes ago, engphiledu said:

Gah, I hate the favorite question! I just love all my pens and inks for different reasons, so I hate to say I can't answer your question. But, as of right now, I'm currently grading with a Pilot VP inked with Diamine Merlot, a Platinum 3776 Bourgogne inked with Iroshizuku Ino-Ha (Rice Ear), and a Sheaffer 100 with Lamy Turquoise. My husband and I both collect and restore, so we've always got various pens on us.

Wow. I know nothing about fountain pens -- in fact, I'm not sure I've ever even used one -- but these posts are giving me a legitimate hankering to go down that particular rabbit hole. All those wonderful, luscious names...

 

 

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1 minute ago, orphic_mel528 said:

I know what you mean about the favorite question. I guess what I was really asking was, "Which one are you using the most right now?" 

I bought a bottle of the Vert Reseda over the summer because it's such a nice turquoise (a little more to the green side of turquoise than Lamy's) and I haven't been able to stop since.   

Ooo. . . that is a nice color! *adds to shopping cart*

We'll have to compare FP notes!

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Just now, Wyatt's Terps said:

Wow. I know nothing about fountain pens -- in fact, I'm not sure I've ever even used one -- but these posts are giving me a legitimate hankering to go down that particular rabbit hole. All those wonderful, luscious names...

 

 

The addiction is real, I warn you.

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1 minute ago, Wyatt's Terps said:

Wow. I know nothing about fountain pens -- in fact, I'm not sure I've ever even used one -- but these posts are giving me a legitimate hankering to go down that particular rabbit hole. All those wonderful, luscious names...

 

 

Once you start. . . it's difficult to go back. :) 

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All of these are such great responses! @Wyatt's Terps and @imogenshakesI think it's so interesting that you ended up taking fewer notes in your MA programs -- I feel like my note-taking skyrocketed! I love writing down everything that's said in a discussion, though, so I bet that has to do with it; everyone just makes such good points, and I want to remember every single thing that's said.

And my Pilot .38 pens arrived today! All twelve of them! Now it's time to start notebook shopping. You've all given me such great ideas -- this might be a tougher decision than actually choosing a PhD program! 

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I'm v obsessed with fine-tipped art pens -- these in particular: https://www.amazon.com/Platinum-Art-Supplies-Micro-Line-Ultra-Fine/dp/B01FWIE032/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1488040090&sr=8-2&keywords=pigma+micron+pens

I also use gridded notebooks to take notes for all of my classes. I really prefer to have notebooks that have a ribbon bookmark, but sometimes I have to sacrifice the notebook in order to afford my pen obsession.

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On 2/24/2017 at 3:24 PM, FeetInTheSky said:

I also wonder about notes on the reading. As an undergrad I didn't take too many notes on what I read, even though I probably should have. I figure that I'm going to be reading WAY more as a graduate student and that I will be responsible for keeping track of individual scholars and their arguments in a much more intensive way. I'm thinking about writing quick summaries of things that I read, just so that later I can remember the broad points of texts so I'm not standing around my apartment trying to remember who made which argument. Does anyone have better/alternate suggestions for notes on reading specifically?

I tend to employ different strategies based on what I'm reading and why. 

If I'm reading articles in print or on a PDF I can edit, I just highlight/underline and make minimal notes in the margins. If I can't highlight, I summarize and write down important quotations in my notebook for that course or project. Sometimes, I'll write a short paragraph summarizing the article in my own words after I'm done reading. I like to do that with especially dense articles. If I don't come up with my own summary right away, when I get to writing about the article I tend to end up paraphrasing random parts of the paper without keeping a main idea in mind. 

If I'm reading literature, I underline and write minimal notes (longer notes if I get an idea from something I'm reading). When I go to write a paper, I go through and skim what I underlined/annotated and type out quotations and explanations. I consider that my "pre-writing" so that when it comes time to actually write, my quotations are in chronological order with context, and I can just copy and paste them into the paper. 

On 2/24/2017 at 10:40 AM, loganondorf said:

I'll start where it counts: paper. For my entire career as a student, I relied on 70-cent spiral-bound (college-ruled) notebooks from Walmart; occasionally I would go crazy and take an entire's semester worth of notes in one multi-sectioned notebook, but more often than not, I'd keep a stack of the shabby single-subject things. I'm ready to move onward and upward, because as a professional student, don't I deserve to spend gobs of money on the best? 

Recently, I love Clementine brand notebooks. I find them randomly every now and then at TJ Maxx for $6 or so, but I'm sure they're also available elsewhere. I like them because they have nice hard covers and thick paper. They come either spiral-bound or bound like books (there's probably a word for that...). Aesthetically, I prefer the hard bound, but the spiral bound pages tear out much more easily.

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On 2/24/2017 at 6:08 PM, Wyatt's Terps said:

I was telling @Warelin about this in a PM the other day -- whenever I open my copy of Paradise Lost, I come across this index card I wrote as an undergrad, giving a glib overview of the four main demon strategists in Pandaemonium. I'm sure I would have written it in the margins if there were room. :P
 

In my eyes, this is the biggest failing of most scholarly editions of texts. Why are the margins so small?! Looking at you, OWC. ;)

I must say this has been one of the most fun GC posts I have ever read! I've sincerely enjoyed reading about all of your strategies -- it's nice to "compare notes" (lol) and see what methods work for others.

My note taking varies by situation:

In class: I take notes in a ruled, spiralbound notebook (I usually buy from the Mead Five Star series solely based on which covers I like the most). I use Pilot G2 0.5 or 0.7 almost exclusively; I've never tried or even seen the 0.38, but I definitely am going to have to get my hands on one after reading this discussion! I start a new page of notes for each day/class meeting, head it with the title of the text(s) being discussed that day, and the date. I use an outline format (bullets and indenting). As an undergrad I studied English and History; I found that I generally took less notes for English (maybe 2 or 3 pages per class) than for History, which was much more lecture-heavy (4 or 5 pages per class usually). I find that like @Wyatt's Terps I tend to take less notes when I'm actively involved in a discussion! It's just hard to keep up with all of the points being made while also planning your own arguments.

In texts: I annotate like crazy, both in books and on print outs of critical articles! OCCASIONALLY I will annotate a PDF (if it's a particularly long article and I can't bring myself to print it out), but in general writing on paper works better for me. I mainly only use three types of marginalia: notes, stars, and underlining. I use a straight underline when I'm marking something important or the main idea, and a sort of squiggly underline for striking word choice. I use stars in the margin instead when underlining would mean underlining line after line after line. Sometimes (like if I have to lead a discussion or something), I will also write up separate notes besides those I make in the text; for these, I usually write the page number followed by a quote or what struck me in that particular place. This is really time intensive I've found, but really helps me to process what I'm reading. Sometimes, if something in the text calls back to a previous passage or if there's some other connection, I note the relevant page number in the margin.

Paper research: When I'm reading critical sources for papers, I've gotten into the habit of typing up quotes that I might want to incorporate into a Word doc as I go. This might seem like a waste of time, but I find that it makes it so much faster to find the points I want to incorporate when actually writing the paper (plus you can "find" quotes by searching for a particular word or phrase).

Projects: For my undergrad thesis, I kept a separate notebook specific to the project. I used it to take research notes, free write, take notes while my peers gave feedback, etc. I used a smaller size Greenroom notebook (you can find these at Target). The paper is definitely bleed-proof, and it's a really nice color/texture!

Binders: Does anyone else keep a binder for their courses? I ALWAYS have both a binder and notebook for each course -- I keep all of my print outs of articles, paper assignments, etc, in them.

For notes storage, I've found that those storage crates that always make an appearance around back-to-school are the perfect size for notebooks and binders!

 

Edited by othersamantha
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