We recently had a bit of upheaval at the UGS as we moved offices. We said goodbye to our big shared office in Aston Webb, and moved across campus to Ash House, right near the Guild of Students. You may have noticed more and more services being moved around (the student enquiries counter is now in the Main Library, for example). The reason for this is the redevelopment of C Block, with a new hub for student services and a lecture theatre planned.
This is obviously exciting but it does mean that our home for the next few years is a lot smaller than our old office, with a lot less storage space. I’ve been trying to condense my paperwork as much as possible. Most of what I have is paper copies of feedback forms, course registers and workshop handbooks, which are all now stored electronically.
I was looking for an alternative to storing my printed and annotated papers and journal articles, which tend to build up a lot on my desk. I’m an inveterate scribbler and doodler on pieces of paper – anything that stays still for long enough gets doodles added to it, and for me the act of annotating a piece is crucial in understanding and retaining the information in it. This does prove a problem as I’m rapidly running out of space to store printed papers in the new office.
I decided to see if Diigo could potentially be an answer, or at least the beginning of one. I’d been using it to bookmark useful or interesting journal articles or webpages, and share them with colleagues inside and outside the university. The social aspect of the bookmarking is particularly useful to me as a researcher developer, as it’s a way of sharing ideas and examples of what did (and didn’t) work in terms of activities, and also in sharing the research and scholarly thought behind researcher development, which can be harder to filter. As Diigo also allows you to highlight and annotate webpages, I decided to see if it would work as replacement for printing out and annotating the article itself.
I found I could easily highlight pages and full text journal articles, but that the fact my comments and reflections on the content were hidden until I hovered over them meant that when I returned to the page it wasn’t always immediately obvious what my notes were. I found I missed the physical act of writing notes out by hand (something I already know works better for me, as anyone who has been to one of my speed reading workshops may remember me mentioning). However, having articles and webpages bookmarked and tagged meant they were easily filtered, so it was quicker for me to find something to refer to this way. Previously I would have had to sort through several folders worth of print outs, so this at least was an improvement. You can see my Diigo bookmarks here if you’re interested in what I’m reading!
Finding the best way to annotate on-screen, rather than on paper, is still a work in process. This week I’m looking at GoodReader for the iPad, which should allow me to draw and write directly on pdfs, which I’m hoping will be useful for journal papers that aren’t available as full text online.
What approaches to notetaking and annotating do you use? Share your good ideas below!