In my last post I revealed my “Summer Syllabus.” My goal is to read 3000+ pages before the end of my Summer break (June-August). Now you may be wondering, “How do you remember what you read?” Well, I take meticulous notes. “Ok,” you may say, “But what all does that entail?” So glad you asked! Let me show you…
STICKY NOTES 4 LYFE
Below is a picture of J. Kameron Carter’s Race: A Theological Account. As you can tell, I’ve done some major work on this book.
This looks more complicated than it actually is. However, it takes a good amount of dedication. Each “sticky note” represents a particular topic germane to the book I am studying. So the pink sticky notes represents unique contributions from Carter (e.g. Carter on Maximus and Christ the Slave) while the blue sticky notes are primarily concerned with Christology/The Historical Jesus (e.g. Christ’s Jewish Flesh as the World & Israel’s Story). This is extremely convenient for later reference because if I am looking to teach/write on a certain subject I have a visual-color-coded index right in my book! Nathan Smith was the one who originally gave me this idea and it has proved to be extremely helpful.
What can sometimes be vexing is when authors use unfamiliar words. I will refer back to the above picture–notice the giant yellow sticky notes on the front of the book. On that sticky note I have written various words/terms that Carter uses that I need to look up in Merriam Webster’s Dictionary. This helps to 1) follow the author’s argument and 2) to expand my vocabulary when writing and/or teaching.
ON BEING AN OCD NOTE TAKER
When it comes to taking notes on what I’ve read I have developed a fairly meticulous method.
2.1. If I’ve highlighted multiple passages on a particular page and have therefore had to put multiple sticky notes on the margin of the page, I write a number on the sticky note to correspond with a specific paragraph (e.g. In Picture 1, it shows three highlighted paragraphs. In order to avoid future confusion Picture 2 shows that the passages dealing with “Whiteness and Israel” have a purple sticky note as well as a circled “1” and a “2” on the sticky note. The green sticky with a circled “3” is for the passage dealing with the patristic thinker St. Augustine. If you look back at Picture 1, you can see a circled 1,2 and 3 in the margin of the page–these numbers help me connect the paragraph with the colored sticky note).
3. Also in Picture 1 you can see I have circled footnotes in the body of the text (footnotes 17 and 18 to be specific). This just means that I have highlighted that particular note (Picture 3).
4. You can also see in Picture 3 that I have put two “!!” in the margin. Ultimately, this just indicates that this bit of the book was especially interesting. The other two symbols I use are the asterisk* and the hashtag# (it will become clear why I do this in 5.3).
5. After I have done all the above, I type out the entire highlighted passage in a word document specifically dedicated to the book I am reading. I have provided a PDF copy below for those curious (Picture 4, J. Kameron Carter Race: A Theological Account).
PDF Notes on Race: A Theological Account Picture 4↑
5.2. If I am ever trying to remember a quote from an author, I open up the word document, type in a key word in the “search bar” (e.g. “pseudotheological” or “Weltbürger”) and then Word highlights anytime that word/term is used in a paragraph all throughout the document.
5.3. As I stated earlier (see point 4 above), I write specific symbols next to paragraphs that are especially appealing to me. This helps later when I am searching for a favorite quote. Rather having to type/remember a specific word in the search bar, I simply put a # or an *. This highlights all the passages in the Word docx where I have put a # or an *.
Final Tips and Tricks
Now for some final suggestions regarding annotating and the likes:
-Follow the goodies–i.e. follow the footnotes! This seems like simple advice, but I think for a lot of people this can be tedious so they just bypass the goodies altogether.
-On a similar note, if an author is continuously referencing a specific article or book investigate that source! Most of the Essays in my Summer Syllabus have all come from reading footnotes in various books.
Well there you have it! Hopefully this has helped and hopefully it has inspired you to create more of your own methods for annotating your books/articles. Be sure to let me know as I am always looking for ways to be more scrupulous!