I will admit that note-taking has always been a particular pain for me. My handwriting is usually illegible chicken scratch, which makes annotating texts difficult as I cannot fit my writing into the small space. Due to the size of my handwriting and the size of the margins (depending on the text), I am forced to reduce my annotations to one helpful word.
Using one word to describe a passage does cut out a lot of the important, deeper aspects of a text. If I should happen to forget some of the deeper implications of that one word, or if I forget why that particular word was the one I chose, this practice essentially becomes useless.
My workaround for annotations is usually to use my Chromebook with an extension called “Kami” that allows me to mark up and digitally write all over PDF files of the texts we are studying. For this particular class, this has proved valuable as I can annotate the plays to my heart’s content. There are no space or size restraints, so I can fit as many notes as possible on one line of text. I also use it for scholarly articles to highlight important ideas and take notes on them. This method works for me because I can easily record and later reference important insight on class readings.
This method also has its shortcomings. For Shakespeare and this class in particular, the text is public domain and can easily, and legally, be downloaded as a PDF. For other classes, PDF versions of the texts are either not easily accessible or not legally available for download, or both. For those classes, I usually use my pen and notebook. I would say I use a watered-down form of annotation, numbering the beginning of important passages and then writing my notes on said passages in my notebook. I usually have to write fast if we are taking notes in class, which could further reduce the legibility of my writing. I will occasionally have to skip over or paraphrase ideas, which limits my understanding of core concepts when reviewing my notes.
For films, I take a different approach to taking notes. It’s more of a process than a simple action. The first time I watch a film, I won’t take down physical notes, just make mental notes of scenes that I find intriguing. Later, I will go home and watch the movie again, taking more detailed notes of the scenes I liked.
This method gives me more time to process and analyze the movie in-depth. Rather than an in-class showing that is a simple linear run-through, I have the power to pause, play, slow down, go back, skip forward, etcetera. Having picked and dissected a scene, I can make more concise notes regarding the camera work, the transitions, and all the other minor details that directors put into a film that are rarely noticed at first viewing.
After recording all of these details, I will then expand on them by picking another scene I found interesting and repeat the process with the added step of comparing and contrasting. I’ll ask myself questions like “why did/didn’t the director use similar techniques in these different scenes?” or “what is the implication of using/not using this technique in this particular scene?” I have found that this helps me clearly answer the overall question of “how does the director convey meaning in these scenes?”
This process also has its drawbacks. I will admit that it’s a very long process that does require a lot of effort and time on my part. If I’m working on a time constraint (or if I’m simply not feeling up to it), I do not necessarily have the time to repeatedly pause and play the film. I might just do a quick screening, recording the more overt technical aspects of the film without slowing down to re-watch or reconsider my thoughts.
Note taking has always been difficult for me, but I feel that I am slowly making progress into making my notes complete and useful for review, both on texts and on films.