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THREE DIFFERENT MODELS OF TAKING NOTES

Most people take notes using a variation or a combination of the following three techniques: skeleton prose, time-line table or the spray diagram.

SKELETON PROSE
This is the most common form of notetaking. Notes are structured as a sequence of numbered points and paragraphs, with headings and indentations - like the outline of a paper. This is useful for those books or articles where arguments are static and built up slowly and sequentially. Notes in this style can have drawbacks: --they are difficult to add to or amend --they do not indicate the relationship or connection between different parts of the argument --it is more tempting to copy comments/sentences/passages verbatim --people ask to borrow them!

TIME-LINE PROSE
A less common but equally effective form of notes is structured quite clearly in terms of a descending chronological time-line (in the left-hand column) and its relevance for four or five major themes (across the top). This can be a useful way of assessing the relevance of particular events for specific arguments, and for providing different explanations of the same events. It also enables you to grasp quickly the chronological sequence of events. Its drawbacks: --inflexibility. Difficult to change themes or develop new sub-themes halfway through --difficult to sustain in a lecture covering a long chronological period --tends to prioritize chronology over substance

SPRAY DIAGRAM
A highly effective and flexible model which is particularly useful when taking notes while listening to the spoken word in lectures or seminars. The main theme or argument is boxed or circled in the center of the page, so that one can develop and spray various sub-themes off different branches. Each of these then develop other branches and sub-divisions, which can in turn become the subject of its own page. It is an excellent way of discerning the centrality of particular points and their relationship to other parts of the argument. It demands that you actively engage and think about the material as you process it. But, once again, it has its drawbacks: --unless clearly labelled and executed it becomes an indecipherable mess --connections and ideas that were clear at the time can become confused and confusing --it needs practice!