Recently, I ‘actively’ read Booth, Colomb and Williams’ (2008) the Craft of Research. This book, in its third edition, offers sage advice to authors of research articles…like myself. The Craft of Research describes pragmatic approaches to organize thoughts meaningfully, develop arguments effectively, and draft papers skillfully.
Normally, I annotate every journal article that I read for work on my iPad, but I find value in reading paper books, too. I feel more comfortable bringing my book to places where I would not bring my table, and I also try to limit the length of time I spend staring at screens. However, annotations in books are more difficult to organize and retrieve as electronic annotations. I want to the notes I make in paper books to be as accessible as my annotations on digital artifacts.
Why not type the notes afterward?
Seriously! How long could it take to transcribe only my notes? Transcribing pertinent passages of the book would take too long, but I planned to write notes that identified the main ideas of each page (as necessary), with the hope that the quantity of notes I would have to transcribe later might be smaller. Then, I timed my transcription.
- For a 282 page book, it took me 33 minutes to type 920 words of notes.
- PDF copy of my notes
Some of my handwritten notes referred to lists of items that I went back and summarized briefly in my transcription. I felt this was valuable, so that I had almost all of the information I found most pertinent at my digital fingertips. There were many highlighted passages and underlined sections that I did not transcribe, which would have taken me considerably longer. I organized notes by chapter, so that if I wanted to refresh my memory, I could do so easily.
Were the results of the process valuable…to me? Yes. It was a great processing and review strategy, and one that I will try to employ in the future, especially having attempted it once and realizing that transcribing the notes afterward was a good review and not too demanding.
Are the results valuable to you? Probably not.
Are my notes and process description valuable to the wide world? Maybe. Maybe somebody else will find my notes valuable, or will be inspired to read paper books and transcribe their notes for a digital record. Either way, the process was valuable to me, and I will try it with my next book: Tricks of the Trade: How to Think about Your Research While You’re Doing it, by Howard Becker (1998).