3.2 Filtering and organising

3.2.3 From note taking to note making

Good essays are built on good notes. When researching your essay, you will want to both 'take' and 'make' notes. What is the difference between 'taking' notes and 'making' notes? And how does one make the leap from note taking to note making? Here is a brief overview:

The purpose of taking notes The purpose of making notes
  • recording
  • reiterating
  • capturing
  • internalising
  • synthesising
  • processing
Examples of note taking Examples of note making
  • underlining or highlighting what you read
  • taking pictures  
  • jotting down data
  • writing down bibliographical information
  • listing questions
  • listing ideas 
  • paraphrasing what you read
  • creating a collage
  • plotting data on a graph
  • describing the value of each source
  • answering questions
  • mind mapping ideas

In order to move from note taking to note making, one must develop useful habits and routines. This is where the Researcher's Reflection Space (RSS) comes in handy. This is a place where you can paraphrase what you have read, create collages, plot data on graphs or make mind maps. The point is to make your notes meaningful for the essay that you intend to write (see Figure 3.2.3a) 

Note card system

One strategy of note taking and making that you may want to try is the a note card system, where you create a card to catalogue every idea or quotation you come across. By creating such cards with a 'tagging' system, you can begin to organise your ideas and sources. Click on the sample note card below.



For note taking and making, you may need these tools
  • highlighter pens
  • sticky notes (post-its)
  • note cards
  • notebook
  • note-making app
  • cork board (bulletin board)

Digital or paper?

Are you going to create notes by hand or digitally? Research by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer suggests that you are more likely to retain and internalise new information if you write by hand. See this article for more about this phenomenon and their article.