Paper vs digital and notetaking

Another aspect of taking a reading and research intensive class is keeping track of everything.  Where is the reading?  Did you actually read it?  Do you have notes on a separate page or document?  How do you pull together ideas for a paper?

I learned to do research in the pre-internet but early digital materials and sources era.  I therefore learned to look for books and journal article names in a digital database, but then had to read the books or journal articles on paper.  Which meant tons of photocopying or stacks of books.  Primary sources were documents reprinted in book collections.  (Most of my undergraduate and graduate study was about medieval Europe; therefore no newspaper, magazine or other kinds of sources were available.  The actual sources were all in archives somewhere in Europe and utterly inaccessible.)  I read the books and made some notes on paper, but mostly kept what I'd learned in my head.  I wrote out some quotes if I thought I'd use them.  For photocopies, I highlighted the crap out of them but otherwise didn't take notes. Creating a bibliography and citations involved looking at my Chicago manual reference book and each of the sources.  And hoping that I had written down the correct information on the photocopies I'd made.

All of this is now outdated and inefficient.  For this course, I put together way too much information to try to keep the main ideas in my head.  And the digital methods of reading sources helped quite a bit as well.

I am a huge fan of using my iPad like a notebook.  Meaning I handwrite on my iPad all the time.  The assigned reading for this course was on an 11 page syllabus, and a large number of the readings were journal articles.  I downloaded the majority of the journal articles and annotated them on my iPad.  The readings that were chapters from books were photocopied, though I did scan a few of them.  

I found myself highlighting less and annotating more than I used to.  (As the course moved on and I had more and more reading, I highlighted more and annotated less.  But overall I wrote much more on my readings than I've ever done in the past.)  The writing ended up being incredibly useful.  I was able to go back to my annotations because those were the places where I made connections between various authors and ideas.  Those connections were the basis for the thinking and discussion during class and the paper that I wrote.

Annotations on paper documents:

page from Navia article annotated.jpeg

Printed journal article - notes were written on paper and include info looked up on topics I needed more information on.

Highlights and annotations completed on the Notability app on the iPad: