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Discussion in 'The Pilgrims Progress' started by Jeremy Ivens, Feb 22, 2017.
What is your notetaking system for Scripture and theological works?
I tried taking notes when reading Scripture for devotions. However, it did not last long. I quickly found that the extra energy/attention required for taking notes made me less likely open up the Bible. In other words it was a deterrent to reading.
Regarding theological books, I have a couple of different methods. Most commonly, I have my computer open as I read. At the end of each section, I try to articulate the main thought(s) in my own words. This helps me read the work with understanding. In addition, it provides an excellent resource for quickly reviewing the contents of the book. As I read, I also type any quotes that are worth saving. I do all of this in a bullet-point format. Typically, any comments/thoughts I may have as I read, I type up at the end the document (with a reference to the page number that I was reading when the thought occurred). In this way, my own thoughts are kept separate from my notes on the book.
I have done this with pencil and paper as well. However, I can type faster than write; my handwriting is poor; electronic documents are sharable and searchable.
If you like, I can send you an example via email.
Depending the work, I will either do an analytical outline or just summarize main parts.
I seldom outline a theological book. But I usually keep a legal pad handy, and I jot down thoughts that occur to me as I read, noting the page number I was on when the thought occurred. Sometimes, some thoughts will end up in my own writing, which is why I need page numbers. I need to be able to look back and decide whether or not I need to add attribution, and know how to add it.
I have an ESV Study Bible, in which I try to compile all the useful comments I get from my reading (and not just commentaries). This will, eventually, result in a one-stop place for having all the best insights of what I've read. When it comes to my theological works, I always read with a pencil, underlining and bracketing passages that are helpful so that I can find them again.
Your method and mine are quite similar! I read books with a pencil (or occasionally a fountain pen) in hand, and have developed a little system for marking up my books over the years.
Where we differ a bit is that, somewhat like Jack, when doing research for writing I keep a legal pad or notebook handy. I'm presently doing some studies in Flavel, so the notebook is close to hand for recording insights.
You use an ESV Study Bible; I've got an NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible Kara (my wife) gave me at my ordination. Every book with an insight worth revisiting is carefully annotated in it. My sermon/counseling/teaching prep begins each week by consulting that Bible.
If something ever happens to it, I might be inconsolable.
Lane, I used to do the same. Then, I'd go back and find what I now considered to be a bunch of notes that I either couldn't remember why I put them there or now found them irrelevant. And they were permanently stuck in my Bible.
Let me clarify my method. I will, at points, write my own insights in the margins of that Bible. However, here's my general practice. If I come across a writer who has a particularly helpful comment on a text of Scripture -- especially if the text is very common, or rather obscure -- I'll note in the margin one of two ways. Here is an example of each. (#1 is from Jer 17.1; #2 is from Jer 20.10).
#1. By writing in the quote:
17.1: "Sin, not law, was written on the heart - hence, the need for the promise of the new covenant." (Cf. 17.9) Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, 166.
#2. By writing in the citation, because the paragraph/section as a whole is helpful.
20.10: cf. Edwards, II.343 (Feb 10).
I always note the text in underlined format; not sure why, but it's consistent and clearly distinguishes where I'm working. Certainly, there are instances from time to time where my citation/quote isn't so helpful now as when I initially added it; but my aim was very simple from the outset: to collect insights for texts I had heard preached many times, and especially for texts I had not heard/read much on at all.
Thankfully, the discovery of irrelevance has been infrequent; and the Lord has helped me to develop the discipline of reading with pencil in-hand. I showed this method to my intern and our elder candidates because it has been so helpful for me.
Here is a thread I started some time ago that received helpful inputs: https://puritanboard.com/threads/taking-notes-on-books.90210/
I have been taking notes with Manton's Works Vol. I with good results. Much of my hesitation with note-taking was because I read little enough with a toddler and newborn, and I thought note-taking would make that more difficult and less frequent. I have actually been surprised to find that in some ways taking notes makes it easier. I have an easier time remembering what I have read, and a trail of notes to refer to, so being distracted is not as big an issue as if I were reading without taking notes.