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Joshua Luna
02-17-2008, 01:14 PM
Suggestions, tips, and techniques requested!

How do you take notes from books & journals and keep them organized for quick reference in the future?

As I continue on in my studies I am finding that I am (a) reading more books (b) with more density in content and (c) cover a wider range of topics--and it can be very difficult to recall this information without good organization.

As I am working on my thesis this issue has manifest itself. I have solid recall of authors and relevant points of interest but it isn't perfect. And even when I remember the point it can take time to find the content I want (e.g. this weekend I spent about 20 minutes browsing through a 400 page book looking for a comment, which ended up in a footnote with some references to further reading). I already have dozens of books I need to read or reread for my thesis so cutting down time backtracking to books outside the immediate context but have valuable periphrial content would be great--especially as I look down the road to more research as well as smaller topics that will benefit from a spattering of points across many books.

A good example of my dilemma is Craig Blomberg's Jesus and the Gospels (http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Gospels-Introduction-Craig-Blomberg/dp/0805410589/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203266688&sr=8-2). Blomberg covers a vast scope topics, has a lot of insights, and a lot of references to salient resources. After taking notes for that book I decided to go away from pen&paper and go with audio notes. Unfortunately I still have to digitize the notes and, more importantly, store them in a way for quick access.

So for all your great scholars with thousands of books you wish to reference

(1) How do you take notes? At your PC? Audio? Stickies?

(2) How do you keep your notes centralized for quick access.

My general problem is not linear commentaries or narrowly focused topical books (when you are studying a verse or topic they are quite easy to reference). The problem is books that cover broader topics, have a spattering of interesting exegetical points, and so forth.


I am reserved to the fact, at this moment, of taking audio notes and trying to refine my approach to something like:
Page #:



Category: (topic, word, verse, reference, etc)



Concise Point: (a VERY short summary of issue and position
I would like to refine this approach (or BETTER ones!), so any suggestions would be great. Right now my notes are too long and take far too long to transcribe... I may also look into a wave-to-text converter.

Putting all these notes into a single document and then store them in a folder structure would probably work... so I am thinking outloud here and fishing for some feedback:

BW Notes (Folder)
..... Book Notes (Folder)
.......... Authors (Folders)
............... Books (Files)

I recently read Walter Kaisers, "The Messiah in the Old Testament" so I would create a file with all my notes and then put it into a folder something like this:

BW Notes (Folder)
..... Book Notes (Folder)
.......... Kaiser (Folders)
............... The Messiah in the Old Testament (File)
............... Toward an Old Testament Theology (File)
............... Toward an Exegetical Theology (File)

I am sure most of you have been down this road before... so what have you found that works?

I am currently working on my thesis in addition to a number of papers for school on a variety of topics and have found myself spending more time thumbing through books (with either sticky notes, highlighting, or pencil markings) trying to find information I need. Sometimes it is easy because it is a major point to a chapter... other times it is a single page that engages a single technical angle with a number of references that I need to review to properly tackle the topic, etc. It is great when a book has a useful index, but not all do ... not to mention I sometimes forget (a) what book a point was in and (b) forget some great information I had read to begin with! Sometimes an author makes a great comments/insight that may not be central to your current project but it may be a worthwhile addition to flesh out your thoughts.

The more my library grows and the more topics they cover... ugh! I mean that in a good way :)

So I am cheating: how are others dealing with these issues? Taking good notes that are worthwhile years down the road is a big positive. Less time searching aimlessly, more time thinking.

Thanks for your time!

Joshua

Dale A. Brueggemann
02-18-2008, 10:47 PM
Sounds like you might be a good candidate for Nota Bene, especially for its Orbis note taking database www.notabene.com (http://www.notabene.com) will show you this stuff.

Joshua Luna
05-07-2008, 11:51 AM
Thanks Dale. I spent some time looking over their software and reviews and it seems to be a pretty nice package.

Your lead did open the door to this "market" of software (which I never knew existed) so I spent a bit of time browsing through various applications (Nota Bena, EndNotes, RefWorks, etc... OpenOffice.org's website has a fairly robust list of such tools (http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Bibliographic_Software_and_Standards_Information)) .

I am quite impressed with Zotero (http://www.zotero.org/). It is a free FireFox plug-in that allows you to "collect, manage, and cite" your references. It is well laid out and designed and so far my test drive has show it to be fairly robust. e.g. I am reading Larry Hurtado's "Lord Jesus Christ" and to capture all the bibliography information to cite his work I just clicked a little icon on the browser and it added it to my library. As I read the book I could create new notes under the book which can be searched through later. The notes can even be "tagged" (labelled) with a subject for quick filtering. So clicking my "Adam Christology" tag pulls up my notes from Hurtado and Fee in regards to Dunn's treatment of Phil. 2:6ff.

Zotero has a couple additional add-ons to work with word processing applications like Word and OpenOffice. The Word one is nice and allows you to insert correctly formated citations as well as convert your document to a different format on the fly. It will also generate your Bibliography after you have finished your document. It lacks some of the fine touches of some of the more advanced software titles, but it is free and has some pretty nice video (http://www.zotero.org/documentation/screencast_tutorials) tutorials (which make it pretty easy to learn as well as give a good idea of workflow and limitations).

So far I am pretty impressed. The price and reviews from other users caught my eye, but the products quality has been drawing me in.

MGVH
05-08-2008, 10:10 PM
I just posted some stuff on my blog (http://bibleandtech.blogspot.com/2008/05/research-and-note-taking-tools.html) about using NotaBene and Zotero for note-taking. Joshua, you may also be interested in another new post (http://bibleandtech.blogspot.com/2008/05/bonus-items-for-research-and-note.html) about using your voice files, either with the Zotero/Vertov combination or with the free Jott service.

Adelphos
05-08-2008, 11:10 PM
I just posted some stuff on my blog (http://bibleandtech.blogspot.com/2008/05/research-and-note-taking-tools.html) about using NotaBene and Zotero for note-taking.

Does anyone know enough about NoteBene and Endnote to opine about which one is better?

MGVH
05-09-2008, 12:28 AM
I have used NotaBene enough to know how powerful it is. It really works well not only for the bibliographic and note-taking stuff (with the accompanying Orbis and Ibidem), but also for entering Greek/Hebrew/Syriac using the Lingua workstation.

I tried to help my wife use Endnote for her thesis..., and I gave up. I never quite 'got it' how it works, and I must have installed/removed the thing 10 times trying to make it behave with MS Word 2003. I do know of people who use it happily, so it may just be me and my computers...

That said, NB and Endnote are two entirely different things. NB is a powerful word processor with accompanying and well-integrated modules for note taking and bibliographic work. Endnote is simply a note-taking and bibliographic tool that is supposed to work with a number of word processors.

Adelphos
05-09-2008, 01:13 AM
That said, NB and Endnote are two entirely different things. NB is a powerful word processor with accompanying and well-integrated modules for note taking and bibliographic work. Endnote is simply a note-taking and bibliographic tool that is supposed to work with a number of word processors.

Thanks for the summary. I've tried NB and I like it. The problem is, I can't justify the expense. IOW, I don't really need it, but I wish I did because it's a very nice program.

Dale A. Brueggemann
05-09-2008, 12:52 PM
Thanks for the summary. I've tried NB and I like it. The problem is, I can't justify the expense.

I'm a well-established Nota Bene user and swear by it. But I must say, after seeing Hoffmann's note about Zotero, I checked it out. A looks at its specs and on-line demos impress me greatly. If I were using MS Word, I would almost certainly begin using it.

Indeed, it tempts me anyway--just to play with it.

Adelphos
05-09-2008, 05:50 PM
I'm a well-established Nota Bene user and swear by it. But I must say, after seeing Hoffmann's note about Zotero, I checked it out. A looks at its specs and on-line demos impress me greatly. If I were using MS Word, I would almost certainly begin using it.

I thought Zotero only works with FireFox when I skimmed it. I guess I'll go back and take a look at it.

arggem
05-09-2008, 08:21 PM
Zotero itself requires FireFox, but it has citation interfaces with Word and OpenOffice.

fireandsalt
05-24-2008, 09:13 PM
Try writing down the page #, and a general topical category in the front of the book. My Pastor does this and it works well for him.

If you want something more extensive (and computer based) try Mind Mapping it.

http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

I use it quite a bit for organizing my thoughts.

Joshua Luna
05-26-2008, 07:30 AM
I would like to thank everyone for their contributions to this thread. The comments, links, and blog posts have all been very helpful in identifying my needs and tools to meet them. Thanks!

Joshua Luna
06-08-2008, 04:26 PM
For those using Zotero, a quick question: How are you using Zotero to annotate notes from books that may have a chapter dealing with a specific verse? Creating Tags could become clumbsy because there is only one field (i.e. Phil. 2:9-11 where you have Book, Chapter, Verse range would be a single tag instead of three independant tags you could refine).

I am considering making the first line in the note the chapter/verse for such notes but wouldn't mind suggestions for a better approach (Book/Chapter tag?)

Right now I am using BW for exegetical notes and would like to use Zotero for all Bibliographic notes.

Thanks for any input. :)

arggem
06-08-2008, 08:05 PM
For those using Zotero, a quick question: How are you using Zotero to annotate notes from books that may have a chapter dealing with a specific verse?


Well, your question might be quick, but try as I might, I can't come up with a quick answer.

Not knowing how familiar you are with Zotero also makes it difficult to respond, so, I will assume very little familiarity and risk insulting your intelligence, rather than assume you know about some feature that you've never heard of.

Zotero wasn't designed for Biblical research per se, but it is quite flexible.


One option would be to use a series of collections and/or subcollections. E.g. Book/chapter/verse . Or just Book/chapter. This would be similar to the options you have for storing user notes in BW.

I personally haven't gone that route yet.

I'm still playing with tags. I try to keep tag proliferation down by making my tags refer to some significant range of verses, like paragraphs, pericopes etc.

Don't forget, you can tag individual notes, not just the main entry.

Your idea of making the first line the reference works too.

All these ideas have pros and cons. The trick is to find what works for you. If you haven't already, check out the advanced search features.

For example, you can tag a note with Acts 2 (or Acts 2:1-13) and then put v. 3 in the note (doesn't have to be the first line).

In advanced search you can search for Tag is Acts 2 AND Note contains v. 3.

Well, I feel like I'm babbling. Does that give you any ideas?

SCSaunders
06-08-2008, 08:29 PM
If you want something more extensive (and computer based) try Mind Mapping it.

http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

I use it quite a bit for organizing my thoughts. I've used this quite a bit too, more so in the past. Excellent software that they keep improving.

Joshua Luna
06-22-2008, 02:53 PM
Well, your question might be quick, but try as I might, I can't come up with a quick answer.

Not knowing how familiar you are with Zotero also makes it difficult to respond, so, I will assume very little familiarity and risk insulting your intelligence, rather than assume you know about some feature that you've never heard of.

Zotero wasn't designed for Biblical research per se, but it is quite flexible.


One option would be to use a series of collections and/or subcollections. E.g. Book/chapter/verse . Or just Book/chapter. This would be similar to the options you have for storing user notes in BW.

I personally haven't gone that route yet.

I'm still playing with tags. I try to keep tag proliferation down by making my tags refer to some significant range of verses, like paragraphs, pericopes etc.

Don't forget, you can tag individual notes, not just the main entry.

Your idea of making the first line the reference works too.

All these ideas have pros and cons. The trick is to find what works for you. If you haven't already, check out the advanced search features.

For example, you can tag a note with Acts 2 (or Acts 2:1-13) and then put v. 3 in the note (doesn't have to be the first line).

In advanced search you can search for Tag is Acts 2 AND Note contains v. 3.

Well, I feel like I'm babbling. Does that give you any ideas?

Yes, thank you. :)

I have been toying with Zotero so your suggestions made sense. The tagging for books as well as notes is a nice, and quick/convenient, so I am fiddling with how to make it work best for me.

On collections the "problem" is if I create a folder structure (Bible/Genesis/Chpt.1) I need something "there" to mark a note as "related" i.e. you cannot select "Related" on a note and have it reference a folder, it needs to reference something in the folder. The only solution I can see so far (?) would be to add a "file placeholder" in/as the chapter or whatnot.

I am leaning toward the idea of tagging the first line with Book/Chapter and maybe verse. The reason for using the first line for this is because the note "title" when you are browsing your notes in a title is whatever shows up on the first line.

Your comment on the advanced search on using ranges and verse numbers in the note was a good work around. Thanks!

arggem
06-22-2008, 05:50 PM
I'm glad that was helpful!

If you come up with some other scheme that really works well, let us know.