How Do We Read?

I was on Twitter (to get a break from grading) and saw a post I really wanted to read. It is called “How do you read?” and is on Text Mining and the Digital Humanities. The author did 12 in-depth interviews and had a survey up for two days, which received 153 responses from humanities scholars.

I didn’t get to take the survey. 🙁

So, I thought I’d post here. 🙂

I am a humanities scholar and, to date, most of my primary sources are textual.

I copy out snippets frequently. I do this for multiple reasons including:
The snippet provides evidence for an argument I am trying to make.
The snippet gives me an idea or seems interesting.
I am looking for examples or occurrences and the snippet provides one.
The snippet is a quotation I think I may need.
Writing out a snippet helps me think about it.
Writing out a snippet helps me remember it.
The snippet helps me develop a longer argument.
Also, which was not mentioned, the snippet makes sure that if I use the author’s own words, I quote them rather than thinking I have paraphrased them when I actually quoted.

How long are the snippets I copy out?
Very short = very few
One sentence = some snippets
Two to four sentences = most snippets
Paragraph = very few
Longer than a paragraph = very few or none

What information do I add to the snippets I copy?
Notes to myself about relevance
Notes to myself about ideas generated by the snippet
Other markers
Citation information

When do I revisit and re-read primary sources I’ve already read?
When I develop a new hypothesis, to look for evidence.
When I think of a new idea, to investigate further.
When I notice a new or interesting pattern, to see if it occurs elsewhere.
When I’m writing.
When I get stuck in my writing.
When I teach.

How do I take notes when I read and/or re-read?
The first time I read a text, I copy out snippets into my notes.
When I re-read a text, I make notes and underline along the way.
When I re-re-read a text, I do both. Depending.
This has changed as technology as changed. (Somewhat.) Now that I have Evernote, I am far more likely to copy more snippets.

The only thing I think needs to be added to the conclusions is that searches depend on the key words being the same key words that are in the primary text or your notes every time. I use a lot of jpegs in my classroom syllabi. Sometimes I have trouble finding them even though I saved all of them because I don’t always call them the same thing.

I might be looking for something from Morte D’Arthur.
So I look for Morte
or Arthur
but what if it is labeled Lancelot, Guinevere, Camelot, Gawain?
When I want something related to Gawain in my printed notes, I usually wrote SGGK near it. But I have not used SGGK in my jpegs (I learned today as I searched for a particular picture).

How could a program create/log/feature my own keywords? Too many and I would get lost in the list.

3 thoughts on “How Do We Read?”

  1. Thanks so much! Because of your response, I’ve reopened the survey, because I’ve realized that people might still want to add their results to it.

    To answer your question: auto-suggest. With programs that allow users to make up their own tags, its’ been shown that auto-suggesting tags helps people use a more standard vocabulary. Hand-in-hand with that, a browsable list of tags also works to remind users what they meant by a particular tag.

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