“We all do ‘do, re, mi,’ but you have got to find the other notes yourself.”
~ Louis Armstrong
While most notes include summaries and interpretation of data, the way these occur on the page differ from person to person. My marketing textbook describes analysis as the conversion of data into insight, and this analysis is always made easier for me through taking notes. Today, I want to look at textual data and visual data, especially in regards to play-texts and films. My annotation practices when reading and observing both art forms differ and converge in methodology.
Annotation Practices – Play-Texts
An aversion to manipulating physical copies of a text, due to the majority of the texts that I have ever read being library loans, means that my copies of Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing are void of highlighting, underlines and scribbles. I hope to grow out of this aversion, as I have to come to understand—over taking two English classes this semester and talking to classmates—that margin notes taken in the physical copy of a text have numerous benefits such as ease of reference and direct linking of ideas without having to write them all out. Currently, with my aversion still present, I write detailed notes about play-texts in a separate notebook.
As Play-Texts are a form of Literature, I am very conscious of literary devices when taking notes. I note:
- Literary Devices (Symbolism, Simile, etc.)
- Quotes or words I enjoy/I don’t understand
- Context I might need to look into further
I also try to go beyond simply addressing the existence of the above but: in the case of literary terms, discussing the effects of the devices used; with words I can’t decipher, looking them up; and context I am clueless about, researching more. All of this additional information is jotted down.
Annotation Practices – Film
When watching film, there are numerous aspects to keep in mind as I write my notes in a notebook. Unlike with textual works, I have less academic experience with writing notes when watching films. This class has been a large factor in my better understanding of interpreting film. When writing notes during the various films we’ve seen throughout ENGL 311, there are specific things I look for:
- Film Techniques (such as type of shots, editing cuts, etc.)
- Actors (A-List, relationship to director/producer, etc.)
- Lines or words I enjoy/don’t understand
- Context I might need to look into further
After numerous English classes that taught how to read literature, the process of annotation and interpretation of texts flows quickly and lengthily. The same cannot be said for film. These notes tend to be more sparse, especially because when watching scenes from a film in a classroom or theater-like setting, it is not possible/too time-consuming to pause to write down lengthy observations.
General Note Taking and Inquiry and Determining Success
An example of my note-taking.
I like to see how several small ideas connect over large chunks of text or video. Thus, when I write notes, my handwriting tends to be very minute and cramped. The more text I can cram on a page, the more ideas I can relate and compare. I also utilize arrows, models, and different text colors to relate ideas, differentiate headings or highlight important words and concepts. For taking notes for texts and films, I try to develop a character map listing out the cast of characters, along with their characteristics, and how they relate to each other.
There are two different things I look at when trying to tell if I’ve had a successful note-taking session:
- I understand the material better and this understanding resonates across all additional analysis.
- When I look back at my notes, I can understand them in nearly the same capacity as when I wrote them down.
My note taking is often intensely meticulous, cramped, colorful and done in a specific notebook with lined paper. My approach when taking notes when reading play-texts and when watching film differ and converge. Notes on play-texts tend to be lengthier and more in-depth. Both require brief summaries, analysis of textual and visual devices, and, later on, external research.
Mirabelle Harris-Eze is an 18 year-old student based in Calgary, Alberta. Sometime in the near future, she wishes to publish a book written entirely in the language of her ancestors, Igbo. One day she hopes to fill this bio with writing credentials, and accolades. For now, this will have to do.