Organizing thoughts

I’ve been thinking about this since our class today. Since the group hasn’t met me yet, I’m the person that talked about using a black notebook at a job I had before. When I started that job, I found it oppressive. We carried those books everywhere and we weren’t supposed to rip pages out of them. I hated having “mistakes” or changes or crossed out words in my notebook (I wanted it clean and perfect), but in research, like we talked about today, I think a system like that will be useful because what seems like a dumb idea to me one day could be exactly what I need to get back on track another day — so not ripping out those pages could be helpful.

It was great hearing about how different people record ideas, like the journalist who keeps small notebooks and brings them everywhere he goes, because it really illustrated how different we all are. And even though we’re in the same program and the same class with similar backgrounds for the most part, we are very different. I have a medical condition that impairs my memory, focus and concentration (while I’m disclosing — the treatment causes spontaneous sleep once in a while, so if my eyes close in class, it’s not because I did anything interesting the night before or that I’m slacking). But I have a friend who can remember what every person she was with was wearing on any occasion dating back over twenty years. Her system of recording ideas is extremely different from mine.

We all have different backgrounds, personalities, skills, abilities and ways of thinking and learning and so it makes total sense to me that there are so many different ways of keeping notes and recording information and even why there are so many different research paradigms. I thought that there was a natural choice of paradigm for any study, but I didn’t consider how many factors go into the choice. Subject, money, time, and other resources are huge, but now I think that they’re not the only considerations. If everyone in the class started with the same broad research question, it seems to me like by the time we narrowed down our question and designed our studies, some of us would come up with very different proposals. Thoughts? Ideas?

So, just out of curiosity, how is everyone else planning to record ideas/writing/keep track of their work as they go through the research projects?


3 thoughts on “Organizing thoughts

  1. Brett Phillipson

    That’s a great point about personality, skill and memory types affecting the ways in which we organize ideas and other information. Personally, I have kind of the opposite problem that you do – I’ve always had a very good memory (it actually freaks people out, to the point where I sometimes pretend to forget things in order to make others more comfortable) so for most of my life, keeping an external record of my ideas has never been all that necessary. When I finally got to the point where it was necessary (grad school) I found myself having to learn skills that many people had just developed naturally over time.

    In my case, technology has helped a lot. I’ve never been a big fan of writing by hand, and I find paper records spectacularly difficult to keep organized. I keep a paper agenda, and a little notebook in which to write down thoughts and other personal stuff (grocery lists, books I want to read, plots for world domination) but that’s about it. I find the malleability of digital writing allows me to reconcile my naturally chaotic state with the need to keep my academic work relatively organized. Scattered bits of writing can be consolidated at a later date through simple copying and pasting, and big blocks of text can be cut up into easily manageable pieces with little effort.

    Which reminds me: I think the biggest problem I have is that I just write too much. I’m talking hundreds of pages, if left to my own devices. It’s hard to keep your writing organized when you don’t even have the time to read through most of it! Knight and Luker are certainly right that writing helps generate ideas – but what if you come up with too many of them? Is there a point when you need to stop thinking and start organizing?

  2. yshereck

    I agree about differences in personality and background affecting the way we think and learn and I think that’s one of the interesting things about this assignment and research in general. People can not only focus on an issue that is of interest or importance to them but they can also find a way to pursue their topic or question in a way which suits them. In class last week some people mentioned how they don’t even really know what the methods we keep talking about actually are. I feel like there are so many ways to do research, many of which I know nothing about, and at this point it is still a bit overwhelming. The benefit of this is that since there are so many ways of doing things, we can develop questions and methods that do suit our skills and the way we think. That is also one of the things I like about this program. Just like with this project, there is often a way to combine personal interest with professional development.

    I think there is definitely a point where one needs to start organizing. I agree with what people have been saying about how valuable writing is to the work process, especially for a project such as this but the writing is really just a basic starting point. I think it is when you go through your notes and ideas and try to make sense of them and organize them that you can really make connections and figure things out. Knight suggests using different folders to organize notes by theme which might be a good idea for someone who writes a lot. Knight has a list of about ten different types of notes that one might make when preparing for a research project. If, for instance, those different things were being kept in different folders from the beginning, it would be easier to navigate your thoughts in the future. This could apply both to paper notes and electronic ones.


  3. jessstarr88

    I am a hyper-organized person, and I think that often I do not write down random thoughts or interests because I am worried that I will be unable to adequately organize them later, and that stresses me out. Since starting this course I have been trying to write down more and be less worried about having scribbled, disconnected notes everywhere.

    My roommate suggested to me that I try an app called “Evernote” as a way of keeping myself organized. I am only starting to get into it now, but I think it could be very helpful. It’s free and is worth checking out – especially those of us who keep random notes on computers, phones, etc.


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