Traditional Note-Taking System: An Overview
Developing the Rough Outline
Information on the Bibliography Cards
Information on the Notecards
Methods of Recording Information on Notecards
Final Stages in the Note-Taking Process
Other Systems of Note-Taking
When you've located the right sources of information for your report, it's time to start gathering the right information from them and developing it into a report. In other words, it's time to start reading, summarizing, paraphrasing, interviewing, measuring, calculating, and developing information any other way your report project requires. The technical report may be one of the largest writing projects that you've ever tackled: you may wonder how you are going to do all that reading and remember all that information. Concerning the reading, here are several suggestions:
As for remembering the information you gather for your report, the most practical suggestion is to use some form of note-taking. Note-taking refers to any system for collecting and storing information until you can use it in the report. Note-taking involves the skills of summarizing, paraphrasing, or quoting. A good system of note-taking is one that enables you to gather a large amount of information over a long period of time and to be able to use that information without having forgotten it or lost it in the meantime.
- Develop as specific an outline as you can: it shows you what information you must gather and, more importantly, what information you can ignore
- Use the indexes, tables of contents, and headings within chapters to read books selectively for just the information you need.
- Divide your work into manageable, hour-long chunks (make progress rather than relying on big blocks of weekend or vacation time).
In the traditional system of taking notes for a long report, you:
When you have taken sufficient notes to cover all parts of an outline, you transcribe the information from the notecards into a rough draft, filling in details, adding transitions, and providing your own acquired understanding of the subject as you write. Naturally, you may discover gaps in your notes and have to go back and take more notes.
- Develop a rough outline.
- Do any preliminary reading necessary to construct a rough outline.
- Locate your information sources, and make bibliography cards for each source.
- Take the actual notes on index cards.
- Label each notecard according to its place in the outline.
- Provide bibliographic information on each notecard.
- Change or add extra detail to the outline as the note-taking process continues.
- Check off the areas of the outline for which sufficient notes have been taken.
As the section on outlining emphasizes, you must have a working outline before you begin gathering information. The rough outline shows you which specific topics to gather information on and which ones to ignore. Think of the outline as a series of questions:
Rough outline for a report Questions generated light water nuclear reactors by the outline I. Pressurized Water Reactors What are the main differ- A. Major Components ences? what are the main B. Basic Operation components? what are the materials? design? dimen- sions? how many are in op- eration? where? who designed them? II. Boiling Water Reactors How does they differ from PWRs? A. Major Components What are the main components? B. Basic Operation What are the materials? de- sign? dimensions? designers? where used? how many? III. Safety Measures What are the chief dangers? A. Pressurized Water Reactor What are the dangers and safety measures associated with PWRs? B. Boiling Water Reactors What are the dangers and safety measures associated with BWRs? C. Role of the Nuclear Regu- How does the NRC regulate latory Commission nuclear power plants? what standards does it enforce? how? IV. Economic Aspects of Light Water What are the construction, Reactors operation, maintenance, and A. Construction Costs fuel costs? what about the availa- B. Operation and Maintenance bility of fuel? how do these Costs costs compare to output? how do the PWR and the BWR compare in terms of costs and output? C. Operating Capacity How much electricity can a LWR generate at full capacity
Figure 1. Viewing an outline as a series of questions
If you don't have a good, specific outline, the sky is the limit on how many notes you can take. Think of the outline as a set of boxes that you fill up with the information you collect as you do your research for the report:
Figure 2. Gathering information and taking notes: you continue gathering information from the various sources until all the boxes are filled
Step 1. If you have not already done so, use the suggestions here or the steps in the section on outlining to create as detailed a rough outline of your report project as you can.
On the bibliography cards you should record information that enables you or your readers to locate the books, articles, reports, and other sources. Remember that you'll use this information to create the bibliography or list of references for your report. See the examples of bibliography cards for books, magazine articles, encyclopedias, and government documents; the section on documentation shows you details on the information to record on many different types of sources, but remember these general guidelines:
- For books, record the "facts of publication": the city of publication, the publisher, and the date of publication.
- For magazines, record the title of the magazine, the date of issue of the specific magazine, and the beginning and ending page numbers of the article.
- For encyclopedia articles, record the edition number and date of the encyclopedia, and look up the authors' initials.
- For government documents, disregard the authors' names, use the department, administration, or agency name as the author, and copy the cataloguing number.
- For any private sources of information you use, for example, interviews or letters, record the date of the communication, the source's full name, title, and organization with which he or she is affiliated.
In the traditional note-taking system, a notecard typically looks like this:
BWR--fuel rod (III,A,1,b) fuel rod material--Zircaloy (same as PWR fuel rod) 148 in. long X 0.493 in. diam. slightly longer >' PWR fuel rod 16 D, 749
Figure 3. A typical notecard
This notecard has the following features:
Locator. The "locator" phrase or number tells you where the note fits into the outline, that is, when and where you'll use this information in the report. Locaters must be updated regularly. As you read, take notes, and learn more about your subject, you can flesh out, or "elaborate," your outline more and more, subdividing it into third, fourth, and even fifth levels. This process is illustrated in the section on updating the outline.
- A word, phrase, or number that indicates where it fits into the outline (the "locator").
- Bibliographic information: that is, an abbreviation for the source of the note (book, article, etc.) and a page number.
- The note itself, the information that will go into the report.
- A number that indicates the notecard's place in the final arrangement of all the notecards.
Bibliographic information. Each notecard must also contain bibliographic information, those details about the source of the note: the author, title, page number, and so on. Rather than write all such information on each notecard, use abbreviations: assign a letter to each source, and keep track of the sources on bibliography cards, as shown above.
Step 2. If you've not already done so, locate sources of information that may be useful to you in your report work. See the section on finding information sources, and follow the steps there, if necessary.
The actual information that you record on the index card is rather small: a few statistics or a sentence or two, and not much else. You take such small bits of information to make it easier to "shuffle" your notecards into the sequence in which you'll use them in writing the rough draft. There are three ways of recording the information on notecards:
- Directly quoting it, copying the information directly from the source word-for-word
- Paraphrasing it, retaining the full detail of the information but in your own words
- Summarizing it, condensing the main points in the information
- in your own words
Direct quotation. In most technical reports, direct quotation is needed only for the following situations:
Here is an example notecard with a direct quotation:
- Statements by important or well-known authorities or leaders
- Controversial statements you do not want attributed to you
- Statements expressed in unusual, vivid, or memorable language
Myers, author of The Nuclear Power Debate and somewhat of a supporter of nuclear, emphs heavy inspect and penalties: During the period between July 1, 1975 and September 30, 1976 the NRC listed 1,611 items of noncompliance. Only six of these were considered serious violations, 923 were classi- fied as infractions, and 682 were noted as deficiencies. The NRC issued fines to ten utilities totaling $172,250 between July 1, 1975 and December 15, 1976. NRC officials report that the limited use of fines and the efforts to get industry to regulate itself have worked. "By and large," one NRC offi- cial told IRRC, "I think our enforcement program is working." H, 46
Figure 4. Original passage and notecard with direct quotation
When you copy a direct quotation onto a notecard, remember to do a few extra things that will save time and frustration later on:
There are essentially two types of direct quotation: "block" quotations and "running" quotations. Here is an example of a block quotation (any quotation over 3 lines long, which is indented):
- Write a lead-in to introduce the quotation, citing the author's name and any other important information about the author.
- Write a brief explanation, interpretation, or comment on the quotation you've just copied.
In Myers' view, the nuclear power industry has every reason to comply with the NRC's regulations to the very letter: The NRC issues an order to shut down or imposes civil fines only after repeated violations have in- dicated what the NRC considers "a pattern of non- compliance." The NRC argues that, particularly with power plants, civil penalties are unnecessary for the most part. "The greatest penalty," one official said, "is to require the plant to shut down, forcing it to buy replacement power (often at a cost of $100,000 to $200,000 per day) elsewhere. A civil penalty's largest cost--the NRC is limited to a $5,000-per-violation ceiling per 30 days--is the stigma attached to it." (8:46) The "stigma" refers to the fact that, once a nuclear power plant is fined, it will likely be the target of public con- cern and even more stringent and frequent NRC inspection.
Figure 5. Block quotation and a running quotation
"Running" quotations are direct quotations that are trimmed down and worked into the regular sentences of a report. Notice how much smoother and more efficient the running quotation is in the revised version below:
Ineffective direct quotation There are two types of light water reactors: the pressurized water reactor and the boiling water reactor. "LWRs of both types convert heat to electricity with an efficiency of about 32 percent--significantly less than the best fossil-fueled plants, although about equal to the national average for all thermal electricity generation" [13:438]. As for harnessing the energy potential of uranium, LWRs are estimated to average only between 0.5 and 1.0 percent. Revision with running quotation There are two types of light water reactors: the pressurized water reactor and the boiling water reactor. According to Paul Ehrlich, who has been a consistent critic of nuclear power, both these types of LWRs "convert heat to electricity with an efficiency of about 32 percent--significantly less than the best fossil-fueled plants, although about equal to the national average for all thermal electricity generation" (13:438). As for harnessing the energy potential of uranium, LWRs are estimated to average only between 0.5 and 1.0 percent.
Figure 6. An ineffective block quotation revised as a running quotation
Guide for using direct quotations
When you use direct quotations in your report, keep these guidelines in mind.
Paraphrasing. In technical-report writing, usually the better approach to note-taking is to paraphrase. When you paraphrase, you convey the information fact-by-fact, idea-by-idea, and point-by-point in your own words. The writer of the original passage ought to be able to read your paraphrase and say that it is precisely what she or he had meant. Here are some example paraphrased notecards:
- Never use "free-floating" quotations in reports. Always "attribute" direct quotations; that is, explain who made the quoted statement. Notice how this is done in Figure 6.
- Always provide adequate introduction for direct quotations and explain their meaning and importance to your readers. Notice how the block quotation above on NRC penalties (a) prepares the reader for the quotation, and, afterwards, (b) provides interpretive comment, on the meaning of the word "stigma" in particular.
- Use indented or "block" quotations whenever a direct quotation goes over three lines long. With any lengthy quotation, make sure that it is important enough to merit direct quotation.
- Whenever possible, "trim" the quotation so that it will fit into your own writing. Notice how the words that are less important are omitted in Figure 5.
- Punctuate direct quotations correctly. You can see the rules for punctuating direct quotations; however, here are some examples of the most common ways to punctuate quotations:
According to Desaix Myers in his The Nuclear Power Debate, "The NRC has nearly 400 staff members assigned to inspect nuclear plants now operating or under construction." NRC officials also inspect nuclear power plants "an average of 50 times during the period before operation" when they are under construction and "a minimum of four times a year" after the plants go into operation. Myers points out that standardization of nuclear power plant design is an important next step: "The NRC estimates that by standardizing plants..., the time between a decision to go nuclear and start-up of plant operations can be reduced from 11 to 6 years."
- Use ellipses to shorten direct quotations. When you do, however, make sure that the resulting quotation reads as good English. Here is an example passage:
Ehrlich argues that a mistaken notion of the breeder reactor has been promoted in the United States: [Although breeder reactors] can harness so much more of the potential energy in uranium and thorium than non- breeders[, i]t is worth emphasizing that a breeder does not get something for nothing.... Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich and John P. Holdren, Ecoscience: Population, Resources, and Environ- ment, (San Francisco: Freeman, 1977), p. 441. Ehrlich goes on to argue that breeder reactors are ...
Figure 7. Using ellipsis in direct quotations
The three dots "..." show that words are omitted from the sentence. The brackets "[ ]" indicate changes made by the writer using the quotation so that it would read as good English and make sense.
- Use direct quotations only when necessary: if the passage doesn't fit one of the reasons for direct quotation cited at the beginning of this section, paraphrase or summarize it instead.
BWR--fuel assembly (III,A,1,3) fuel assembly--63 f rods spaced, supported in a sq (8 x 8) arrangement by upper + lower plate 3 kinds: (a) tie rods; (b) water rod); (c) stand f rods 3rd, 6th f rods on a bundle's outer edge act as tie rods the 8 tie rods screw into castg of lower tie plate water rod: acts as spacer support rod, as source of moderator material close to the center of f bundle K, 2001 BWR--fuel assem (III,A,1,3) fuel channel--enclosure for f bundle; f bundle + f channel make up fuel assem is a tube with a square shape, made of Zircaloy dimensions: 5.518 in. X 5.518 in. X 166.9 in. function: channel core coolt thru f bundle and guide control rods K, 2001
Figure 8. Paraphrased notecards
Paraphrases are necessary and preferable for a number of reasons:
Here is an example of an original passage and its paraphrases, with the unique wording of the original (which must be changed in the paraphrase) underlined.
- You paraphrase because the content of the passage is so important to your report that you need every bit of it.
- When you paraphrase, you adjust the wording of the original to meet the needs of your audience, the purpose of your report, and your own writing style. In other words, you "translate" other writers' material into your own.
- A report of mostly direct quotations would be hard to read.
- Readers tend to skip over direct quotations, particularly long ones.
- One final reason for paraphrasing: you are actually writing bits of the rough draft of your report as you paraphrase.
Original passage About a third of light-water reactors operating or under construction in the United States are boiling-water reactors. The distinguishing characteristic of a BWR is that the reac- tor vessel itself serves as the boiler of the nuclear steam supply system. This vessel is by far the major component in the reactor building, and the steam it produces passes directly to the turbogenerator. The reactor building also contains emergency core cooling equipment, a major part of which is the pressure suppression pool which is an integral part of the containment structure. . . . . earlier BWRs utilized a somewhat different containment and pressure suppression system. All the commercial BWRs sold in the United States have been designed and built by General Electric. Several types of reactors that use boiling water in pres- sure tubes have been considered, designed, or built. In a sense, they are similar to the CANDU, described in Chapter 7, which uses pressure tubes and separates the coolant and mo- derator. The CANDU itself can be designed to use boiling light water as its coolant. The British steam-generating heavy- water reactor has such a system. Finally, the principal reac- tor type now being constructed in the Soviet Union uses a boiling-water pressure tube design, but with carbon modera- tor. Anthony V. Nero, A Guidebook to Nuclear Reactors, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979. Paraphrased version Boiling water reactors, according to Anthony V. Nero in his Guidebook to Nuclear Reactors, either completed or constructed, make up about one third of the light-water reactors in the U.S. The most important design feature of the BWR is that the reactor vessel itself acts as the nuclear steam supply system. The steam this important component generates goes directly to the turbogenerator. Important too in this de- sign is the emergency core cooling equipment which is housed with the reactor vessel in the reactor building. One of the main components of this equipment is the pres- sure suppression pool. The containment and pressure sup- pression system currently used in BWRs has evolved since the early BWR designs. General Electric is the sole design- er and builder of these BWRs in the U.S. The different kinds of reactors that use boiling water in pressure tubes are similar to the CANDU, which separates coolant and moderator and uses pressure tubes also. CANDU can also use boiling light water as a coolant. The British have designed a reactor generated steam from heavy water that uses just such a system. Also, the Soviets have de- veloped and are now building as their main type of reactor a boiling pressure tube design that uses carbon as the moderator. [12:232]
Figure 9. Avoiding the original wording in paraphrases
Guide for writing and using paraphrases
Here are some guidelines to remember when paraphrasing:
Summary. Summaries are usually much shorter than their originals. A summary concentrates on only those points or ideas in a passage that are important. Unlike in a paraphrase, the information in a summary can be rearranged. Here is a passage from which summaries below will be taken:
- In most cases, paraphrase rather than use direct quotation.
- Avoid the distinctive wording of the original passage.
- Do not interpret, criticize, or select from the original passage.
- Include bibliographic information on the author, source, and page numbers.
- In the rough draft, cite the author's name and other important details about her or him just as you would if were quoting directly. In Figure 9, notice how the paraphrased author's name is given early.
- Refer to the paraphrased author in such a way to make it clear where the paraphrase begins and ends. (See Figure 9.)
- Document a paraphrase just as you would a direct quotation. Mark the area of the paraphrase by citing the paraphrased author's name at the beginning of the paraphrase and by inserting a footnote or parenthetical reference at the end. (Again, see Figure 9.)
Numerous systems are available for controlling abnormali- ties [in boiling water reactors]. In the event that control rods cannot be inserted, liquid neutron absorber (containing a boron compound) may be injected into the reactor to shut down the chain reaction. Heat removal systems are available for cooling the core in the event the drywell is isolated from the main cooling systems. Closely related to the heat removal systems are injection systems for coping with de- creases in coolant inventory. Both abnormalities associated with the turbine system and actual loss of coolant accidents can lead closing of the steam and feedwater lines, effectively isolating the reactor vessel within the drywell. Whenever the vessel is isolated, and indeed whenever feedwater is lost, a reactor core isolation cooling system is available to maintain coolant inventory by pumping water into the reactor via connections in the pressure vessel head. This system oper- ates at normal pressures and initially draws water from tanks that store condensate from the turbine, from con- densate from the residual heat removal system, or if neces- sary, from the suppression pool. A network of systems performs specific ECC [emergency core cooling] functions to cope with LOCAs [loss-of-cool- ant accidents]. (See Figure 6-9.) These all depend on signals indicating low water level in the pressure vessel or high pressure in the drywell, or both.
Figure 6-9. BWR emergency core cooling systems The systems include low-pressure injection, utilization of the RHR system, and high- and low-pressure core spray systems. The high-pressure core spray in intended to lower the pressure within the pressure vessel and provide makeup water in the event of a LOCA. In the event the core is uncovered, the spray can directly cool the fuel assemblies. Water is taken from the condensate tanks and from the suppression pool. On the other hand, should it become necessary to use low-pressure systems, the vessel must be depressurized. This can be accomplished by opening relief valves to blow down the vessel contents into the drywell (and hence the suppression pool). Once this is done, the low-pressure core spray may be used to cool the fuel assemblies (drawing water from the suppression pool) or RHR low-pressure injection (again from the sup- pression pool) may be initiated, or both. The RHR system may also be used simply to cool the suppression pool. (Two other functions of the RHR are to provide decay heat removal under ordinary shutdown conditions and, when neces- sary, to supplement the cooling system for the spent fuel pool and the upper containment pool.) Anthony V. Nero, A Guide- book to Nuclear Reactors, Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1979, pp. 104-107.
Figure 10. Passage to be summarized
Sentence-length summaries. Often summaries are only a sentence long. To create sentence-length summaries, use one or a combination of the following methods:
Extended summaries. A summary can be longer than a single sentence because of the important information contained in the original passage. (Remember, however, that a paraphrase is a point-by-point recap of the original, while the summary is a selection, reordering and condensation of the original.) Here's an extended summary of the passage above on BWR emergency safety systems (Figure 10):
- Locate a sentence or two in the original passage that summarizes the information that you want, and simply rewrite it in your own words. Find the sentence in the third paragraph of the original that is the basis for this summary:
BWR--safety sys (IV,B,2) The systems that perform emergency core cooling functions in loss-of-coolant accidents include low-pressure injection, utilization of the RHR system, and high- and low-pressure core spray systems. I, 104
- If no individual sentence will work, locate several sentences that contain the right information, and combine them. (This summary sentence is built from paragraphs 1 and 2 of Figure 10.)
BWR--safety sys (IV,B,2) In case of problems with control rods or loss of coolant, BWRs use an absorber to stop the reaction or emergency systems to replenish and maintain coolant around the reactor core, respectively. I, 104-107
- Sometimes, the summary sentence is like a new sentence, scarcely resembling any in the original. Here is a different summary sentence on the passage above; notice how new it seems:
BWR--safety sys (IV,B,2) If the control rods malfunction, a substance can be introduced to shut down the reaction altogether, and if water is prevented from reaching the reactor core, BWRs are equipped with backup sources of coolant that can be sprayed or injected into the pressure vessel. I, 104-107
Boiling water reactors use numerous systems to control abnormalities in reactor operations. If a problem with control rods occurs, a liquid neutron absorber can be injected to halt the chain reaction. If coolant is cut off from the reactor core, a reactor core isolation cooling system can maintain coolant inventory by pumping water from various storage areas. This system includes low-pressure injection, the residual heat removal system, and the high- and low-pressure core spray systems. The water supply for these various emergency systems ultimately come from the suppression pool.
Guide for using summaries
Whenever you summarize, you must handle the resulting summary the same way you would a direct quotation or paraphrase.
- Cite the name of the author and other important information about that author.
- Document that summary using whichever system is appropriate for your report.
- If it is an extended summary, make it clear where that summary begins and ends, for example, by referring to the author's name at the beginning and placing a footnote or parenthetical reference at the end.
Step 3. With the notetaking system described above, take at least 10 notes using the following steps: (a) find information that you want to summarize, paraphrase, or directly quote; (b) take each note on separate index card; (c) key each notecard to your outline; and (d) include bibliographic information on each card.
Plagiarism. If you follow the guidelines presented in the preceding, plagiarism should not be a problem at all, but make sure you understand what it is. Plagiarism refers to two kinds of theft:
Plagiarism is bad business: the plagiarizer can fail an academic course or lose his or her reputation among business and professional associates. It only takes simple documentation to transform a report with plagiarized material in it into one with legally borrowed material. The section on documentation explains these procedures in detail.
- Plagiarism is the practice--whether deliberate or not--in which a writer borrows other people's facts, ideas, or concepts and presents them as if they were her or his own.
- Plagiarism is also the practice--again whether deliberate or not--in which a writer uses other writers' exact words without quotation marks.
- In all cases, plagiarism is the lack of proper documentation: documentation refers to any system of footnoting or reference that indicates the author and source of the borrowed information.
Reports with plagiarized information are often easy to spot for several reasons:
- A reader may recognize the ideas or facts in the report as those of someone else. An expert in a field of knowledge can spot this theft of information right away.
- A reader may realize that the report writer could not possibly have developed certain information in the report. If a writer who is at the beginning of his studies sounds like an advanced physicist, something is fishy.
- Most readers can also spot a sudden change in the style or tone of the language of a report. Most people's writing style is as readily identifiable as their voices over the telephone.
As you take notes, you must regularly update the locators on all your notecards because as you read, take notes, and learn more about your technical subject, your outline may either change or become more specific. Imagine that you started with this excerpt of a rough outline and had taken these notecards:
Rough sketch outline IV. Safety Measures A. Pressurized Water Reactor Safety Measures B. Boiling Water Reactor Safety Systems C. Role of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Corresponding notecards BWR--safety sys. (IV,B) safety sys incl control rods, containmt bldg, resid heat removl sys there work like those in PWR unique to BWR: drywell, emergency core coolg sys 1 I, 100 BWR--safety sys (IV,B) drywell--encloses react vess + assoc equip (includes recirc sys, press relief valves on main steam lines) 2 I, 100 BWR--safety sys (IV,B) emergency core coolg sys--handles loss-of-coolt accidents; includes reactor core iso sys, hi- press core spray sys, lo-press core spray sys (figure for this, p.106) 3 I, 105-6 BWR--safety sys (IV,B) react core iso coolg sys: if loss-of-coolt accidt (causg closing of steam lines,feedwtr lines to react vessel), RCICS activated (maintains coolt inventory by pumpg water to reactor via connex in press vess head 4 I, 104 BWR--safety sys (IV,B) hi-press core spray: lowers press w/in press vessel, provides suppl water in loss-of-coolt accidt. with uncovered cores, spray directly cools fuel assemblies (wtr fr condensed wtr storge tanks + suppress pool 5 I, 104
Figure 11. Notecards and the corresponding outline before updating
As you took these notecards, you would update your outline periodically; at the end, the outline might look like this:
Revised outline IV. Safety Measures A. Pressurized Water Reactor Safety Measures B. Boiling Water Reactor Safety Systems 1. The Drywell 2. Emergency Core Cooling Systems a. Reactor core isolation cooling system b. High-pressure core spray
Figure 12. Updated outline
Notice that all five of these notecards are about "IV. B. Boiling Water Reactor Safety Systems." Notecard 1 divides this safety system into the drywell and the emergency core cooling systems. This division produces "1" and "2" under "B." Notecards 3 through 5, about the subsystems making up the emergency systems, produce "a," "b," and "c" under "2."
If you had taken these notes and updated your outline, you would revise the locators on the individual notecards like this:
Notecard Original Updated Alternate no. locators locators locators 1 IV. B same Safety/Boil.Wtr.React. 2 IV. B IV. B. 1 Safety/BWR/drywell 3 IV. B IV. B. 2 Safety/BWR/Em.Cor.Cool. 4 IV. B IV. B. 2. a Saf./BWR/Em.Cor.Cool/ React.Cor.Cool. 5 IV. B IV. B. 2. b Saf./BWR/Em.Cor.Cool./ Hi.Pres.Cor.Spray
Remember that if you don't like the number-combinations as locators, you can substitute short phrases, as is shown in the alternate locators above.
Step 4. Review the notes you took in Step 3, compare them to your report outline, and update your outline as necessary.
As you take notes, check off sections of your outline for which you gather sufficient information, as is done in this outline excerpt. In this example, the writer has taken sufficient notes for much of IV.B. but still needs information for the rest of the outline.
III. Boiling Water Reactors A. Description of the Basic Components 1. Core a. core b. fuel c. fuel rod d. fuel assembly 2. Control Rods 3. Core Shrouds and Reactor Vessel 4. Recirculation System 5. Steam Separators 6. Steam Dryers B. Production of Electricity 1. Circulating Water 2. Separating Steam 3. Drying the Steam 4. Producing Electricity IV. Safety Measures A. Pressurized Water Reactor Safety Measures 1. Residual Heat Removal System 2. Emergency Core Cooling Systems a. passive system b. low-pressure injection systems c. high-pressure injection systems 3. Containment Building B. Boiling Water Reactor Safety Systems 1. The Drywell 2. Emergency Core Cooling Systems a. reactor core isolation cooling system b. high-pressure core spray c. low-pressure core spray C. Role of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission V. Economic Aspects of Light Water Reactors A. Busbar Cost 1. Construction Cost 2. Operation and Maintenance Costs 3. Fuel Costs B. Operating Capacity 1. Availability Factor 2. Capacity Factor
Figure 13. An outline for which note-taking is partially complete
Step 5. Review the notes you've taken to see whether you can cross off any items in your outline. Once you've done this, return to Step 3, and repeat the process until you've gathered enough information.
In the final step in notetaking, you arrange the notecards in the order that you'll use them as you write the rough draft. Read through your cards several times to make sure the sequence is right and that there are no gaps in the information you've gathered. When you're sure that the order is right, write sequence numbers on each of the cards to preserve the order (see the sequence numbers on the notecards in the next section). With the notecards in the right order and numbered, you are ready to write the first draft, which is discussed in the section on rough drafting.
Step 6. Put the notes that you've taken in the preceding steps into a proper sequences, and number them.
There are plenty of other ways to take notes. The main point of any form of note-taking of course is to make your report work easier and less time-consuming. You may prefer some other note-taking system because of your own work style or because of your report project. Or, you may end up using some other system in combination with the traditional one. Any system that enables you to get your work done efficiently is a good one.
- Mental notetaking. With short reports, it is possible to remember all the information and not writing any of it down is possible. But few of us are able to remember all of the information for long, highly technical reports.
- Book marks. If you use only a few articles or books, you can mark the important passages with slips of paper and write the rough draft with them. If you have many books and articles, this approach can get to be quite chaotic.
- Photocopying. You can also photocopy everything you think you need in your report. With the photocopied pages, you highlight the important passages, or cut out the important passages and paste them on notecards. Two problems with this approach are that (a) you may photocopy many unnecessary pages and waste money and (b) you still have the job of paraphrasing and summarizing ahead of you. Still, this is a system some report writers use occasionally to supplement their more traditional note-taking procedures.
- Exploratory drafts. If you are already familiar with your report subject, you can try writing a rough skeletal draft to show you what information you need. You may discover that all you lack is specific names, statistics, or terminology. You can take notes and plug the information into the draft (especially if you have computerized word processing). Writing the exploratory draft shows you what you know and don't know.
- Notetaking by the source. If you have only a few sources, you can also use one other fairly common system of notetaking:
- You take notes from individual sources onto long sheets of paper rather than onto notecards.
- You take all the information you need from the source onto as many sheets of paper as necessary; you don't split it up into bits of information on separate notecards.
- At the top of each notesheet, you give full bibliographic information on the book or article.
- Throughout each notesheet, you indicate the exact pages the information comes from.
- Also, you label these pages of notes with locators, the letter-number combinations from the outline.
- You mark off sections of the outline as you gather sufficient information for them.
- In some cases, you can cut up these full-page notes and actually handle them as if they were notecards.
Here is an example sheet of notes using this approach:
Outline Source: J Pages area 1. BWR core--large nbr of fuel assembls (94) ea one a sq array 7 X 7 or 8 X 8 III,A,1 fuel pin: active length 12 ft contains water rod (providg (95) moderator w/in f bundles) III,A,2 large BWR contains 764 assems w 40-50,000 f rods + about 180 tons of uran. diox 2. reactor vessel--contains core (99-100) and assoc equip, also control rods above core, steam separators/dryers 3. vessel dimensions: 72 ft high, 21 ft diam (100) material: carbon steel, 6-7 in thick III,A,3 clad w 1/8 in stainls steel withstands 1000 psi at operatg temps 4. coolant--recirculates w/in react vessel of BWR IV,B,2-3 no external loop jet pumps in annulus (101) pump: reactor inlet nozzles Figure 14. Sample notesheet: taking notes by the source
In this system, the source (book, article, report, etc.) is indicated at the top of the page; the page numbers are indicated down the right margin in parentheses; and the sheet of notes is keyed to the outline down the left margin in parentheses.
When you've gathered enough information and know your report subject well enough, it's time for the last three major steps in writing a technical report: writing the rough draft, revising and editing, and doing the "final packaging."
For exercises on this phase, See the full set of exercises for the note-taking, rough-drafting, revising, and final-packaging phases.
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