We use the term note taking as if it is a well understood and common practice, like driving on the left of the road. The Thesis Whisperer1 has an excellent set of notes related to note taking. I have a pdf if the document gets moved.
Taking or making notes has an habitual part to it and there is a skill part. Before we make notes however, we typically make a judgement about whether or not the document we have just come across is useful to out purpose. I like to think about this in terms of reading fast and slow. The quick skim is often more of a filtering process. Once you have decided that it is in the in-tray then a quick read, marking2 puts you in a position to write some helpful notes in your first two notebooks about the document, i.e. to help you, later on, decide whether you will make full use of it or whether it serves as part of a broader mix of papers that helps you get a better sense of the focus you are trying to sharpen.
The following is a repeat of the notes that went out for the 1st Module.
For your journey3 you will need three notebooks4. It does not matter if you use physical notebooks or digital ones, or a mix. The most important thing is to use them. The notebooks are not a matter for assessment or evaluation. If you do them well, they will be a sound basis for all of the writing that you do along the way. They will help you with your writing.
The first notebook is a log of the journey. Because we are trying to make sense of things then we can’t leave anything out. We don’t know or have decided yet what is important, what we want to give attention to and so on. This is the only way to document the changes you undergo by taking the journey. Meetings, classes, people, resources associated with each course, reactions to your travel by others, surprises to the strangeness of the terrain, and so on, should be documented as regularly as possible. Record the time and date for all of the items you put in your log. Without such a record, your making sense of the new terrain will be lost and with it your capability to map where you are, where you have come from and the direction you want to go. As a professional you have to hand or in your mind various ‘maps’ that you use to make sense of the various fields in which you work. All this notebook is, is a device to extend your making sense to new fields, new terrains. This is therefore where you record your questions and puzzles as you trek into places you may not have imagined could exist. This is where you record your impressions, ideas, assumptions about the new, the different, the puzzling.
The second notebook is for recording the information you gather. The common artifacts you will collect in the new terrain will be articles, sections of books and documents in general. Some of it will be provided to you. Some of it you will have to locate for yourself. How you go about locating things will, of course, be recorded in your first notebook. Again, you can use software to keep track of this or hand write it, whatever suits .
The third notebook is for your ad libitum writing. Ideas, thoughts that come to mind as you trudge across the strange terrain that is this course and the other courses of this degree. If you like you might call this notebook the place for the good ideas you had while you were doing this silly course! This notebook may also provide good grist for some of the assignment work you will have to complete along the way.