How I take notes
- This is work in progress
- The first set of notes happens on paper, in the margins of whatever I read. Sometimes notes take the form of underlining, not of actual writing.
- Underlining allows me to quickly skim through the text to find the bits that were more interesting to remember.
Notes on the margins are normally pointers to things that are not written. For example, if something does not make sense I would mark it with a
?, if something is a conclusion, I would mark it with a
- I also try to draw on figures to make the link between the explanation and the data.
- Margin annotations are ephemeral notes , meaning that if I let some time pass by, they won't provide useful information
- After that, I make a concept summary on the notes I've taken. If, for example, I read an interesting paper, after annotating on the margins, I create a note, not with the title of the paper, but for each one of its conclusions.
- The reason to do this is because it becomes easier to find the information I need. Instead of remembering where I read something, I can quickly go for the conclusion or topic I am interested in.
- By summarizing from the conclusion, it is easier to build backwards through the difficulties and hypothesis that support them.
- Most likely each difficulty and hypothesis could deserve a note on themselves, and perhaps it even exists already, if I went through a paper focusing on the other side of the problems. Therefore, creating links is relatively easy. The connection between papers that share hypothesis or difficulties will slowly start to emerge.
- I also take care of creating links to the techniques employed, because it is useful to get an overview of in which kind of works each technique is used.
- Once I am done, I archive the paper in a folder indexed by the last author in case I need to retrieve it.
I do like reading on paper . I haven't found anything that remotely resembles the experience of underlining and taking notes directly next to the text. Perhaps tablets with Styluses allow to do this?
For digital notes, I use Obsidian or Zettlr . They both work on plain markdown files. If I were to do more systematic literature reviews, I would probably use more specific software, like Zotero , that allows to categorize papers and include notes that are easy to share.