Let's work out together a consistent resource highlighting system

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This post has 22 Replies | 7 Followers

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Francis | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Mar 16 2018 3:05 AM

I took a course recently in which there was some treatment of consistent note-taking as a way to maximise our reading. Simply put, poor rather than carefully thought-though, strategic, note-taking will result in having to re-read what we have already put the time into. A good system can allow us to recover quickly and easily what we extracted from our reading.

Now, the example provided in class included the following:

  • Solid underline for a major point
  • Dashed line for a minor point
  • Sequences identified with numbers (1, 2, 3...)
  • A star symbol used for something "interesting"
  • A question mark for something puzzling
  • Word circling for unfamiliar or strange terms and ideas to look up
  • A and D as indicative of agreement or disagreement
  • Double-brackets around summaries or keywords

This is combined with a four colour system:

  • Black for facts
  • Blue for method
  • Red for critique (i.e., your own, use when noting your response)
  • Green for "wow"

It should also be noted that this system is not to be applied blindly to any book or article. One must start by formulating for oneself what one is looking for in a specific resource and THEN decides what to annotate. For instance, it might be silly to highlight "method" in a devotional. A lot of the annotations have to do with studying content whether it is academic or not. 

The example was designed for pen and pencil annotation of printed documents. I am NOT using it as of yet. I want to ponder the best way to adapt its concepts to working with Logos, a pointing device, and the highlighting and label functionalities available therein. 

This thread is an invitation to others who are interested in the topic to reflect together on some of the best ways to do this. I know there have been threads that ask what others have done. But usually the discussion is not predicated on clearly identified principles to start with. 

In the present discussion, I found most interesting the notion of discerning between "note-taking" and "note-making". 

  • Note-taking is taking notes to remember what the resource was about: claims, methods, arguments, conclusions. It is NOT evaluative (black and blue above).
  • Note-making is response and critique. It is evaluative (red and green above). 

Many of my past notes and highlights have tended to blend these instead of distinguishing between them. I have found that usually this has resulted in note-making taking over note-taking with the result that I lose sight of the latter and end up with patchy, poorly organised highlights.

As I invite interaction on this, I realise that personal preferences have their place. I hope targeted conversation can help us all get good ideas as to practical and effective ways to do this and improve our habits but it's up to us to pick and choose what we prefer. 

So... let's go? Please if you think you have a good practice that you want to describe, do relate it to the elements identified above. We don't want to end up with fifty posts that say "I do red highlight for this, and yellow for that, it works for me". Let's talk specifically about a solid system to remember content and a related but distinct scheme to evaluate systematically.

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Reuben Helmuth | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 16 2018 4:16 AM

Thanks, Francis, for pointing out the distinction between note taking/making! That's immensely helpful for me. (Thinking of the new system), I think I'll start tagging all notes as "info/response" or something like that.

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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 17 2018 2:16 AM

I did not get a chance, in the context of the course, to get clarifications about the system above. There are a couple of areas that I find liable to confusion:

  1. I find that while the idea of a "main" point is clear enough at a certain level, it is indefinite enough that it can easily be confused with something else. In sections and subsections that have titles, at least the topic is already identified though it may not be worded as a "point." For my part, I find it clearer to use the term "claim" than "point". 
  2. What if a main point contains a fact and I want to critique it? Will I underline it solid in blue and somehow add some red to it? I think that to signal "critique" by colour makes sense if you write (in red) in the margin of a print copy. In Logos, however, it (or another colour/symbol combination) can be signalled by a consistently applied annotation icon. Thus it would be possible to both underline a point (to remember it is a main claim) and critique in an attached note. 
  3. Concerning the possible overlap of say a main claim and a fact, I think it is important to avoid confusion and having too many layers of marking applicable at once. I would think that in this particular example, one might use highlighters for the colour system and stick to underline styles for main and secondary claims. For instance, I may underline a sentence or paragraph as main claim, but highlight in (another colour than black) specific facts in it (e.g., stats like over 70% of Jesus' sayings are Wisdom utterances).
  4. Again, using A and D is useful in the margin of a printed document or book, but I am not sure how useful that is in Logos and especially how it relates to "critique" (red colour). I have started using the note icon with an x in it to indicate disagreement. I am more hesitant as to which icon to use to express agreement. 

Part of the background of the system however is also speed reading in which the reader does not stop to write notes but quickly indicates items of notes (hence A or D for agreement or disagreement). The reader then reviews the whole afterwards for synthesis and to finalise thoughts. I am not used to this (I like to put down my thoughts as they occur) but it may be worth a try because it is true that sometimes we respond to something that the author clarifies two paragraphs later. It does take some adjusting to the idea of reviewing what we read as it feels like it is more work. Yet is it? If we constantly stop to add annotations, that takes time too. Presumably, quick marking with review and annotations at the end might not take more time?

I guess the larger point here is that a marking/annotation scheme is also related to reading strategies. 

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Michael McLane | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 17 2018 5:48 AM

I am interested in this course that you took. Would you mind sharing? Was it a college class, something online? Thanks, Michael

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Michael McLane | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 17 2018 5:52 AM

BTW, - This is a great discussion. I like the idea of building a useful system rather than, "This works for me." Thanks!

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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 17 2018 6:30 AM

Michael McLane:
I am interested in this course that you took. Would you mind sharing? Was it a college class, something online?

It was a university educational support seminar. But as I recall there are a couple books referenced as particularly influential on the source content and it is well possible that the material I described here originally comes from them (I will endeavour to track down the titles of these books and post later on). The course was on speed reading in an academic context but did discuss notes since it is an important aspect of what we do when we read critically. 

Thanks for your reply and encouragement: I was starting to wonder whether there was any interest in this at all. I was thinking of perhaps creating a group on faithlife.com and work with sample texts so that users can propose their marking of it and others can react, respond, propose alternatives, etc. It would provide a visual as well which would be useful I think. A sample text could be a public domain text in PB form of limited size (a chapter or section or subsection therein).

But I would only create such a group if I have enough confirmed interest here. 

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Yasmin Stephen | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 17 2018 6:31 AM

Francis:

  1. Again, using A and D is useful in the margin of a printed document or book, but I am not sure how useful that is in Logos and especially how it relates to "critique" (red colour). I have started using the note icon with an x in it to indicate disagreement. I am more hesitant as to which icon to use to express agreement. 

For agreement you can maybe use the exclamation icon but in green?

Danny Zacharias has a Udemy course called Reading for Information Extraction and he also encourages quick annotation and getting back to your notes after you're doing reading. I appreciate this advice because I'm one that can become distracted by that one interesting fact that will take me away from the book to so many other rabbit trails. On the other hand I do like noting down my thoughts as they occur. Still a work in progress.

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Yasmin Stephen | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 17 2018 6:33 AM

Francis:

But I would only create such a group if I have enough confirmed interest here. 

I'm interested Yes

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Jonathan Bradley | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 17 2018 6:36 AM

Francis:

But I would only create such a group if I have enough confirmed interest here. 

im interested 

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David Owh | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 17 2018 7:25 AM

I am interested too

WIN 10

Posts 53
Robert Kostenbauder | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 17 2018 9:07 AM

I came across a blog post by Mark Ward from Thu. June 23, 2016 titled "How to Highlight a Book Like a Bible Nerd". I have found the system he uses to very helpful and logical for my use. I would recommend it as something to consider.

Robert

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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 17 2018 9:12 AM

Here is the link  to the article Robert mentions. I find useful the idea of inserting text before or after and handy to make it a "capsule" to make it look neater. This is really useful for lists and I will use it (see how the "1" appears in the blue capsule in the preview):

Regrettably, I am having problems with how it appears. Instead of the capsule being a nice circle as it first appeared in the preview, I have a short of downward elongated oval which does not look so good... Will have to experiment so more, get rid of the capsule, or else learn from someone else whether there is a solution to this (is it a bug?). Using this for now:

Note: I inserted a space in the Text Before box after [ 1 ]. Looks like this in a resource:

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Reuben Helmuth | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 17 2018 9:42 AM

Francis:
Will have to experiment so more, get rid of the capsule, or else learn from someone else whether there is a solution to this (is it a bug?).

Try putting a space before and after the "1." I Think your text is simply too short.

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DominicM | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 17 2018 10:56 AM

I use the following

Never Deprive Anyone of Hope.. It Might Be ALL They Have

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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Mar 19 2018 1:50 AM

I have started a group on faithlife: https://faithlife.com/best-highlighting-annotation-practices-learning-together/activity

As promised earlier, here are the two sources mentioned in the course handout: Brain Sailing by Dave Creasey and Inspirachange  by Margaret Greenhall. I have not had a chance to look at either yet. 

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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Mar 19 2018 5:29 AM

Thanks, Dominic, for your post. It would be helpful to explain your scheme.

  • I think that numbered items are self explanatory but when do you use letters (A, B, C, etc) instead?
  • I am not sure what is the relationship between what seems to be a preview of the style (e.g., [ D >> ] and the text Orange_D. Does the marking appear as a blue [ D ] or an orange D? Also not sure what Orange_XT stands for. 
  • Claim and reason seem clear enough. I assume that "key" means a key statement (which may not be a main claim)? 
  • What is [ Research ] : something you tag as needing to be researched further at a later point?
  • It looks like everything is in the same colour. If so, can you comment on why?
  • Is this the whole scheme/palette or is there more to it than what shows in your screenshot?
Posts 402
Liam Maguire | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Mar 19 2018 9:25 AM

Francis:

This is a great idea. Can I make one humble suggestion that I think would increase the longevity of the group?

I would open it up so that we can become members not simply followers. I would really like to upload the highlighting palette (https://documents.logos.com/documents/c12d9b46cc7549aaa87cfc9ae5be4016/details) that I use when reading books so that others can download it and take what they like from it (if anything) and discard the rest. I'd like others to do the same so that I can likewise with their palettes. Currently, there is no scope for that since I cannot join the group as a member. 

Also because I can't join as a member I have nowhere to post any great articles on highlighting, notetaking, etc. on the group. As a result, I will likely post them on the forum (others will likely do the same) which will, in turn, drive interest and traffic away from the group.

I can see what you are trying to do by posting exercise for us to try out. However, I think you might want to broaden your approach and foster a more collaborative setting for sharing ideas if the group is going to flourish. 

Even so, thank you for taking the initiative on this. 

Blessings, Liam

Check out my blog 'For Fathers'

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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Mar 19 2018 9:54 AM

LMAM:
I would open it up so that we can become members not simply followers.

Great suggestion. After taking a look at the settings of the group, I was still not sure how to do this though. How do I make the change?

In the meantime, I manually changed all the "followers" to "members" (if anyone has an objection to this please let me know and I can change it back for you). 

LMAM:
I can see what you are trying to do by posting exercise for us to try out. However, I think you might want to broaden your approach and foster a more collaborative setting for sharing ideas if the group is going to flourish. 

No one is obligated to participate in an exercise but the idea is to keep the group from degenerating into a mess of materials that are insufficiently targeted (e.g., everybody post their palettes without comment, explanations or clarifications). I am trying to get a group going of people who already annotate and mark but want to take it to the next level and find solutions for frustrations. It takes more work (for me too!) to annotate and mark a common text but it gives us a great, hands-on, specific example to work with. 

A more coordinated effort allows us also to think together and discuss, not just create a repository. 

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David A Egolf | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Mar 19 2018 11:30 AM

I took business law from Claude Olney at ASU.  He had a side business of training people how to study for tests.  One of his side courses was titled "Where there is a will, there is an A".  His contention was that people employed underlining incorrectly.  When studying for a test, his method was to underline the surprises that you encountered while you were reading instead of the major points.  Anything you fully understood on the first pass probably did not need to be reviewed.  But anything that was brand new or perplexing deserved to be revisited.

Now, I think that underlining major points would be good for those who wish to return to material much later for and review.  However, I think that having a category of highlighting for "surprises" might actually be beneficial.  The surprises could be your personal light bulb moment or it could be that the author had introduced a concept which varied from common scholarship.  Perhaps these deserve separate highlights?

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Liam Maguire | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Mar 19 2018 11:34 AM

Francis:

No one is obligated to participate in an exercise but the idea is to keep the group from degenerating into a mess of materials that are insufficiently targeted (e.g., everybody post their palettes without comment, explanations or clarifications). I am trying to get a group going of people who already annotate and mark but want to take it to the next level and find solutions for frustrations. It takes more work (for me too!) to annotate and mark a common text but it gives us a great, hands-on, specific example to work with. 

A more coordinated effort allows us also to think together and discuss, not just create a repository. 

Thanks for taking the time to look into the membership issue and to reply to my feedback. I think I simply miss understood the purpose of the group. OPening it for the first time, I was only allowed to join as a follower, and then read your initial post which led me to believe it was more guided than I initially realised. This, in turn, prompted my post above. I see now that I was mistaken. My apologies. 

David A Egolf:

Now, I think that underlining major points would be good for those who wish to return to material much later for and review.  However, I think that having a category of highlighting for "surprises" might actually be beneficial.  The surprises could be your personal light bulb moment or it could be that the author had introduced a concept which varied from common scholarship.  Perhaps these deserve separate highlights?

That's a great idea. I already have a 'Standout' highlighter for points and/or quotes that jump off the page but are not necessarily key points. But I love the idea of a lightbulb highlighter for those 'aha!' moments. 

Check out my blog 'For Fathers'

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