No historian uses notecards anymore, at least not budding historians that grew up in the digital age. These young kids are using Google Docs, Dropbox, or some other digitized method of storing their notes. These tools provide all sorts of advantages such as allowing them backup and the ability to quickly search their notes.
Yet, more seasoned historians think instructing students to use notecards is somehow viable.
Consider the recent publication of The Information-Literate Historian, second edition (2013). On the section for taking notes the author provides several options including notecards and software. However, in an otherwise stellar work, she only provides guidance for the notecards.
A simple method for doing this is to assemble a series of index cards coded to reflect the categories and subcategories you have identified. You may want to standardize the appearance of your notecard by placing the identifying information in the same place on each card (pp. 16-17).
Granted, the author does mention the existence of software for taking notes and she even provides a link for more information, but all her examples refer to notecards. She also does not provide any of the pros or cons to using a stack of notecards instead of a cloud-based, note-taking program.
Here are some of the cons of using notecards:
- They are vulnerable to theft, fire, and misplacement.
- They take up too much space.
- Although they are easy to flip through, you cannot search them.
- If you know how to type, then writing is much slower.
- If someone decides to play 52-card Pickup, you will have a helluva time reorganizing the cards.
Here are some of the pros of a cloud-base, note-taking program:
- Your notes are backed up.
- Your notes are accessible from any Internet-connected device.
- You can search your notes.
Think about it the next time someone suggests you take notes on a notecard for your studies.
Online Learning Tips, Student Contributor