Academic note-taking and annotation behavior
Note-taking is a significant form of annotation: the note-taker is reacting to, and with, the ideas presented in the document, the presentation of the document (which may be an oral accompaniment to the written document), and the circumstances of the presentation. The annotation may be attached to the document itself, or may be made on another document or in a separate media (a SMS message, for example).
This research describes the annotation behavior of academics at conferences, as a step towards the design of annotation tools for a research-oriented digital library. The data gathered is ethnographic: an estimated 40 hours was spent observing attendees at four conferences, and the insights gained in these anonymous observations were fleshed out by twenty interviews.The media used in taking notes varied widely, from scrap paper to conference programmes to conference proceedings, and electronically from PDAs and cellphones to laptops. The flexibility of paper is currently not matched in any digital note-taking devices, particularly in supporting jotting down figures or taking notes that do not march linearly down the page. A categorization of notes by purpose or motivation revealed a diversity of behavior. Relatively few notes simply summarized a talk or paper, unless the attendee's attention was wandering in which case summarizing helped the attendee to focus. Instead, notes included intellection reactions (such as ideas for further research), reminders intended for the attendee or others (such as notes to forward a paper to a colleague), or completely off-topic (doodles, calculation of conference expenses, and 'paper conversations' with other attendees).
© Copyright 2005 Sally Jo Cunningham and Chris Knowles
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