Have you ever been working feverishly to finish a paper only to be held up by that one quote you read on that one page in some book? I do not
normally ever do “productivity” type posts, but I think this is relevant to anyone out there who considers herself a scholar (paid or otherwise). I have experimented with different note-taking systems over the years, with varying degrees of success. I am not talking about detailed reactions to a passage. I have used word processors, and now Evernote, for that. But Evernote is too clunky to be a quick-reference system. What I wanted was a way to search and sort by particular words, phrases, and topics when I write. Most importantly, I want to be able to find them in the book later.
Enter Google Forms! It allows you to create an online form, like a survey. But I have used it a bit like an “app” on my smartphone. That way, I take quick notes on the go and (because I am anal retentive) keep track of my reading each day. All of my entries are recorded on a spreadsheet that I can export, search, and sort for writing.
Google has upgraded some features on its Forms to look better on a smartphone. I have also decided to improve my own “app” to incorporate some new fields experience has taught me I needed. So I thought I would share the process. It’s pretty easy. Here’s how you do it:
1. Go to Google Drive and create a Form.
2. Create the fields you need. I use the following: (1) a drop-down list for books I am reading (I tend to pick my way through several at a time), (2) a text field for anything not in the drop-down list (i.e. “Other”), (3) starting and ending pages, (4) a few text fields for tags and keywords, (5) a paragraph field for quick notes and pithy quotes.
3. Add the page to the Home Screen on your smartphone (just email the link to yourself and open it in your mail app).
Viola! Just type a few notes into your smartphone whenever you finish a reading session and look them up later when you need them! Quick, easy, and so much better than staying up till 2:00 a.m. trying to finish that last footnote.
I am always open to suggestions. I know this is not the only note-taking system out there. How do you take notes on your reading, and how well does it work?
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