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:
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.
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?