February 10, 2012, 11:00 am
I’ve recently started doing the research for dissertation, which means I have a minor obsession with note taking. (As do many ProfHackers.) I’m not a good note taker. I must have taken notes well enough to muddle along this far, but there is a fundamental shift in the kind of research I’m doing. The notes I’m taking now need to be usable for a book-length project spanning years, rather than a semester. Indeed, I hope some of the notes I’m taking now will prove the foundation for work beyond the dissertation.
Some of the best advice I’ve read about how to take notes is from the dusty volumes on library research that were recommended to me as an undergrad. Of course some of that advice is basic: identify your source, take one note per card, etc.
The best advice about note taking that I’ve learned I got from Jacques Barzun and Henry Graff’s The Modern Researcher: paraphrase your…
January 24, 2012, 8:00 am
When you have an idea or a question and want to know more about a topic, what’s the first thing you do?
Do you turn to Google search, or a scholarly database, or another online reference? Or do you turn first to your personal library of books, notes, papers, URLs, and screenshots?
Your answer to those questions should direct your approach to collecting and managing references of any sort.
If your first impulse is to turn to your own curated collections of information, and you’re able to locate what you need when you want it, then whatever system you’re currently using is probably a good one.
But with the near omnipresence of digital reference material, many of us no longer turn first to our own collections. Yet we were trained, explicitly or implicitly, to collect and save large amounts of information.
In Scott Belky’s recent book Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the…
October 10, 2011, 11:00 am
I’ve used Zotero for four years or so, and it’s extraordinarily useful software for research. I’m not the only one at ProfHacker who likes Zotero. Alex recently wrote about Scanner for Zotero, Mark wrote about Zotero and Android, and Brian wrote a comparison of Zotero and Endnote. There are a great many more posts about Zotero in our archives.
But there is one thing about Zotero that has bothered me. The problem is that the most intuitive way to take notes on a source is to attach the note to the source. For example, see the screenshot below, where I have a summary and a few topical notes about one book.
This is all well and good for certain types of notes, such as summaries of books that I read for exams. It’s kind of like scribbling marginalia in a book. But this method is not so good for other types of notes, such as pieces of evidence or quotations. The problem is that…
May 10, 2011, 11:00 am
Here at ProfHacker, we’re not afraid to embrace the latest technologies. But we’re also not afraid to resort to an analog tool if it’s what will help us get our work done faster. But if you can combine something new and shiny that looks old and retro, well, then you’ve definitely got (some of) us hooked. So a few weeks ago when I read that notebook maker Moleskine had released an app for iOS devices, I quickly staked my territory:
I’ve used Moleskine notebooks for a number of years while taking notes in the various talks that one attends around the university. I’ve appreciated the quality of the bindings and the elastic band that holds the book shut and compact within my bag. I’ve not gone the full route of the hipster PDA (don’t miss our podcast interview with Merlin Mann), but my notebooks are always there when I need them. Could the Moleskine app and my iPad help me lose one…
April 11, 2011, 3:00 pm
By and large, academics tend to make, take, and share notes: we mark up our books, compulsively annotate our own and other people’s writing, and jot down ideas wherever they occur to us. Inveterate note-takers find the simple act of writing notes itself is helpful, as Kathleen suggests in her note from an Evernote convert:
Notes are the key to remembering, for me. Or, more precisely: the act of taking notes is the key to remembering. Something about the act of taking notes helps make an idea, or an issue, or a plan more real to me.
Here are some posts from the ProfHacker archives about tools and strategies for taking notes and organizing them afterwards.
Guest author Shawn Miller explains Evernote’s features and offers good examples of how he uses it to jumpstart his writing process and corral different kinds of information. Evernote offers a web-based service …
March 15, 2011, 11:00 am
Here at ProfHacker, we’re not shy about professing love for the things we love—especially when they are tools to get our work done. That’s why you’ve seen past posts about favorite browser extensions, your favorite podcast, your favorite underused feature in an application, your favorite academic tools (which for Amy included Google Docs, a small magnetic whiteboard, and a Rollabind notebook), and even your favorite classroom. And don’t forget our series of “5 [Things] I Can’t Live Without (and Why),” which began with a post by Ethan on his five most important applications.
As many applications as you may have seen, there are always more that you haven’t. And while it’s important to be chary of productivity porn, you also never know when someone else’s favorite tool might do solve a problem that you’ve been having. This was on my mind in the build-up to THATCamp Southeast, which I…