If this were the only thing Ballenger had to offer, I would probably not change my ways–though I would feel a bit worse about them, knowing his criticism of note cards has merit.
The second method he describes, however, caught my attention.
They could see the importance of tracking the source, of categorizing information, and separating notes into bites, and if they could apply those methods to an improvised version, then so be it. That was my argument, and I am still fairly convinced of it.
On my desk is a student’s outline and in the first paragraph she plans to cite three different sources.
I champion this process—in particular the use of note cards—because I see it as a scalable method of note taking that allows students to manipulate information from sources in ways outside the organization of the original articles.
A few years ago I heard a colleague question the use of note cards, wondering whether it was just a time-honored thing that we do simply because it was done to us.
Shuffling note cards helps her to do this, helps her avoid writing a source-by-source recap of the information she has read.
In my own experience, I have found the method useful on research projects, even through graduate school.
I jumped to their defense, citing the things I noted above.
I liked the way note cards could be shuffled and mixed; how once mixed, the original source became less important than the information on the card; and how, no matter how big your paper got, the method’s process held true.