How do I take notes on big books?
January 19, 2006 7:10 AM Subscribe
Researchers, academics, and readers: how do you deal with taking notes, recording passages, keeping a common-place book, and reading long books? What is your note-taking workflow?
posted by josh to Education (30 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a graduate student in English just beginning to get seriously into the research phase of my dissertation. I try to read a novel a day, and a lot of criticism and other non-fiction as well, in fields like neuroscience, psychology, and theology that relate to my thesis topic.
I have a pretty good memory, but nevertheless I find that I'm reading things and just not remembering them. In particular, I come across passages all the time that I'd like to save, and which I know that I won't remember later. And, of course, once I've written these things down they are just that -- written down in my notebook. In the past I've experimented with various solutions: carrying a Palm and portable keyboard; taking notes on index cards and sticking them in an alphabetical file; marking passages with post-its, and then transcribing them into something like DevonThink; or even just carrying my computer around and typing them in directly. But all of those options have been too much of a pain, with constant stopping and starting and/or equipment to lug around. I have a GTD-type workflow in other areas, but just can't motivate myself to sit down and retype paragraph after paragraph once a day or once a week. I much prefer just carrying my notebook with me.
So, all that said -- here are my questions:
1. Is it even useful to horde text like this? Am I better off just trusting to memory? Has anyone found it incredibly useful to have a 'memex' like this during the writing process, or found it useless?
2. If you think it's useful - then what do you do? What's your process for keeping track of what you read?
What I'd really like is a minimally intrusive way that I can keep track of what I read and see important passages, and which strikes a balance between being comprehensive, powerful, and lightweight. That could mean something computerized, something analog. But I'm also unsure that it's even worth it to be thinking about this stuff. Maybe I should just be reading?
Many thanks MeFites!