As I transcribed, if I came across a quote that immediately gave me something to say, I’d make a note to myself using all caps so that I could spot it easily when skimming a document.
I should say that sometimes these notes were useful, and sometimes they were completely useless; at various points during the write-up stage I found myself vehemently crossing out my capitalized notes.
As an undergrad, I could print out my fifteen or so pages of primary source quotes to write a 10-to-12-page research paper.
That method wasn’t going to work for the dissertation.
I ended up using index cards, and it worked for me. The research started (albeit superficially) with my comprehensive exams.
As I read the books on my list, I transcribed the passages I found where historians referenced food, cooking, or eating.Once I got to an archive, I created a new Word document for each collection I looked at.As I read, I transcribed the quotes I thought would be useful for me, making sure to note in bold when a volume changed over to the next volume.I found index cards particularly useful once I got to the writing part because I enjoy the ability to physically flip back and forth between several different quotations.I can even pull index cards out of the stack and place them side by side in front of me—the page numbering makes it easy to replace them once I’m done.I suppose my methods might change in the future if I don’t pick another needle-in-a-haystack sort of topic.Because I ended up with so much material—and so much of it disorganized—I needed a way to work through the digital mountains of words on my computer.Once I read everything, I used my notes to make a detailed outline.After that, I could sit down and write, essentially plugging the quotes from the index cards into the points I already knew I wanted to make.Flash cards are one of the classic study tools, and for good reason – they promote studying through active recall, which is one of the practices through which our brains learn most effectively. well, I don’t want to say they use them the effective when they’re used correctly.For example, when I was learning Japanese, I made extensive use of flashcards for studying kanji. You’re probably studying a subject right now that would benefit from flash card study as well, so it’d be useful to learn the best practices for making and studying those flash cards.