One common mistake I see new writers making, when they are tabbed with writing an essay, is poor note-taking. I was guilty of this myself as a young writer. If I was tabbed to write an essay on, say, Romeo and Juliet, I would read the entire thing and then sit down and start writing. How bad could that be?
While that’s the best way to read something for enjoyment, it can leave you with a number of problems when it comes to actually writing a response to something. When you’re reading something with the specific goal of responding to it later, reading with a pen in hand—or, at least, access to a computer.
Note-Taking Helps You Remember What To Cite
The first problem is simply remembering what you want to cite. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve wanted to reference a particular quote or scene, and couldn’t for the life of me remember where I had seen it. Cue thirty minutes of frantically flipping back through the text, trying to remember what came where as I hunt for the one line I was looking for.
Simply writing down the page number of the quote—or better yet, putting a post-it note atop the page in question—can save you loads of time when it comes to actually crafting your eventual essay.
Note-Taking Helps You Keep Your Sources Straight
It’s even more critical to do this when you’re using multiple sources for an essay or article. In my other career as a sportswriter, I sometimes have 30 or 40 sources I’m compiling for one article, referencing statistics, historical trends and quotes. Trying to remember precisely what webpage they came from or which article or database cited that quote can be a nightmare.
The solution? Index cards, or their digital equivalent. That way, rather than having to sort back through page after page of articles trying to find the specific one I want to link, I have all that information ordered and at my fingertips in one place. I just use an open Word document on my computer, with key passages copy-pasted in, as well as the link to the original website. If you prefer, you can write them down on separate index cards for better portability. You can also write the bibliographical information on each index card, allowing you to easily construct your bibliography at the end of the project.
Don’t Just Note-Take; Annotate!
You can use this technique for more than just recording quotes, too—you can use it to annotate the text, to better keep track of your ideas. If you see a passage that you want to comment on, or raise as a question in your eventual article, make a note! You can write it right in the margins of your own book, or copy-paste it into a document if you’re working with an online source.
A pro tip for digital annotations—use a different font for the source material and your notes if you’re taking digital notes. It helps keep straight what came from the original source and what your own ideas are, and helps you avoid the dreaded specter of plagiarism.
I hope this has helped you learn how annotations can help improve your articles or essays. For further help, why not stop by our order page? Wordsmith Essays has a crack team of international editors who are available around the clock to help polish your essay to a fine shine. Stop by our page today and see what we can do for you.