Post #3: Reading and note taking.

I'm thinking a lot about reading and notetaking.  This is something I think about professionally quite often, since I teach students ways to do both as they learn to engage in in depth research for the first time.  However, I haven't thought about this beyond this for myself in quite a while.  The last actual research paper I wrote was in 2002 - before the invention of smartphones and tablets, and in the earlier days of the ridiculously easy availability of historical sources, etc online.

Some of the strategies I teach I've never really used myself.  

I've never created an index card, old school style, for a research paper.  I started my teaching career teaching younger students a series of strategies for mindful reading, which included using post-it notes as a way to make notes and reflections in a moveable and portable way.

I am at the moment combining these two strategies for my reading.  I'm quite concerned that I will look like an idiot during class discussions without a grounding in ideas and a way to access the information easily.  I am also concerned about finding a reasonable method that makes my writing easier.  I don't want to do what I often did in school - sift through all of my research materials to find an idea or a quote or a connection.  I know that index cards can truly be physically organized, and I like the idea of using my post it notes that way.  But I will end up with a lot -I've put approximately 40 in half of one book.  And I will read many more.

And now I'm also thinking about close reading, which I've never really done in a truly granular way.  I didn't write a PhD thesis or a true master's thesis, and this style of truly close reading is not something I've really done.  So I'd like to challenge myself in that way as well.

I follow a number of historians and sociologists and other academic types on Twitter, and have learned a lot of 'listening in' on discussions about research, work and process.  Tressie McMillan Cottom, a sociologist, posted a piece on reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me in order to write a review of it for The Atlantic.  Her description of her process is incredibly revealing for me.  For her, reading and writing are intertwined.  Highlighting is followed by written response, and then completion of the book is followed by writing a one page summary of the text. For McMillan Cottom, 

"One page forces you to eliminate extraneous notes and to focus on the central themes in a text. The page should also give a few external citations that you think the text is in conversation with."

That's more writing, for one book, than I am planning to do for my entire research paper.  But it seems like such an exciting and engaging kind of process.

So I need to think more about what I will do.  And what could be adapted for teaching to high school students in the future.