Whatever research you are working on, whether that be a school or college project, a genealogical one or a more specific genealogical project such as a One-Name or One-Place study you are going to take notes.
Notes are only as good as the value that they give to the person who has to read them.
We all start out with good intentions of writing nice and neatly and not using abbreviations and over time the writing becomes slopping, there are abbreviations creeping in and some time later when you look at the notes they are not clear or readable. I have done it too and as I became more familiar with research skills I began get better.
I am a prolific note taker and always have a notebook in my bag so I can capture thoughts and ideas. I have been known to scope out presentations and articles whilst sitting in a coffee shop.
So here are my tips:
- Add the date to each page
- Use page numbers and index the notebook
- Record what the notes are about
- Record where the records relate to
If I have a notebook which does not have an index at the front I leave a couple of pages and index as I go. If I am researching and trawling through Parish Registers for example I note the parish and the details as I see it. I do not abbreviate Thomas to Tho unless that is what the document says. I record the records office reference and the location. So it might read, Guildford, Surrey, England – Baptisms St Nicholas 1890 PR……..held at Surrey History Centre and accessed via Ancestry.
Even though I love pen and paper I also use Evernote and One-Note. I have become a little disillusioned with Evernote and I am reconsidering my options. I currently have a complete back up of my study material in Evernote. I also have two lots of archive material, so that is notes that were relevant once and not know – I don’t delete them, I have an archive file – I might do a post on that once the A-Z finishes.
However you keep your notes, be sure that you an easily read them and if you need to retrace your steps to the original source make sure to record where the material is located and what it is.
One of the things I do as each time the Pharos Introduction to One-Name Studies course runs is note down questions from students. I answer those questions of course, but some of them end up here as posts or even a series of posts. One question posed from a student I turned into an article for the Journal of One-Name Studies (in fact that became a series too, although that was not the intention at the beginning!)
If you want to read the background to my affair with notebooks you can read that HERE.