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Records in empirical research

Records and Note-Making

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Students too often undervalue their own work. The effort put into taking notes on books and lectures, into writing essays and drafting exam answers, is effort well spent. You should conserve it by organising and keeping your work so that you can refer back to it and develop it.

Decide how to organise your written material.

You will need somewhere to keep:
It may seem sensible to file your material by the course it comes from. The disadvantage of this is that it does not encourage the maximum use of your material. When you have finished a course the material is not finished with. You may well want to refer back to it in later courses or after you have left college. To help you do this:

Consider arranging your filing system alphabetically by subject: Freud, Kant, Wollstonecraft, Feminist theories, Adam Smith, Town Planning - etc.

Think about how you will cross-reference: You could crossreference by notes in a margin, you could use a card index to cross-reference or you could make a cross referencing system on a computer file<.

Using Notes:

Before you take notes it is as well to think about how you intend to use them.

Note Form

The form you take notes in will vary with circumstances. Two useful forms are bullet points and

Bullet Points Bullet points are:

  1. separate points

  2. not necessarily numbered

  3. headings rather than sentences
You will develop a variety of different note forms, to meet different needs. Note forms analyse (break down) the continuous prose of speech and writing into parts. This can make it easier to make the record and to retrieve it. It can also make it easier for the reader to see the structure of what is being said, and get the main points.

You will use note forms for taking down key points in a lecture. But you will also use them to analyse a situation. You may, for example, work out what different writers are saying about some issues by listing the issues under each writer's name, with a note for each issue giving the writer's opinion.

Essays, and other forms of academic writing, are not written as notes. They are written as continuous prose, with sentences arranged in paragraphs. It is valuable to practice converting continuous prose into notes, and notes into continuous prose. You will also gain from thinking about the advantages of each.

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Lecture Notes

Mind Maps

Note Form

Organise notes


Use notes

Value notes