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When I'm learning new material, it helps me if I take notes (I usually use emacs org-mode). I read on Xournal (annotating on the way) and Alt+Tab to emacs to punch in important points. My question is:

How organized should my notes be while I am authoring them?

The way I see it, I can either make chapters-sections-subsections etc. while I am writing the notes (but this breaks the flow and is sometimes I feel it is irritating since I'm fretting on unnecessary details) or I could write the notes as bullets and organize them later (Something I like but overhead time is spent on organization after reading).

1 Answer 1

Here's the method I found works best for me:

  1. Read a section
  2. Put the paper down, summarize verbally (mentally or out loud)
  3. If you can't summarize, re-read the section. If you can summarize, write down the summary.

This method has the benefit that your notes don't reflect the stream of consciousness that I found went through my brain as I read the paper, but rather only a concise summary of what I actually understood from the paper.

Note that there were definitely papers where I read a particular section numerous times and had no idea what it was talking about, and I wrote that in my notes (e.g., "The authors then performed a mathematical transform involving technique, and I was not able to figure out how it works from reading the paper.").