Twice in a couple of days I’ve tripped up over my fallible note-taking. 

I use a piece of Mac software called, logically, “Notebook.” Amongst other features, Notebook helpfully indexes every word of every note I add, making looking up information much easier than leafing through a paper-based notebook, or through a pile of index cards. However the quality of that information depends on the original note, and it’s here that I’ve slipped up.

My first crisis occurred when I was asked to provide the reference and a page number for a quotation I’d included in a book chapter. “Easy,” I thought, “I’ll just look it up in my notes.” Except that I hadn’t recorded the publication, only the page number! “No problem,” I again thought, “I’ll just carry out an online search.” Hmmm. This resulted in my finding two almost-the-same paragraphs from two other papers the same author had written, the page numbers of which didn’t match my notes and which were just different enough to prevent my using them to replace my original quotation. I never did find the original, and in the end I had to adjust my text slightly  to avoid a misquotation.

And I’ve just come across another note, this time from an excellent, thought-provoking blog, where, although I recorded the author, I failed to note when the words I want to quote actually appeared. Again, an online search didn’t help.

There were two incidental benefits from this cock-up. I had discovered two additional papers by  and author very relevant to my research. And secondly, I got to read more of the blog, and downloaded what looks to be a very interesting thesis by the blogger. Ah serendipity!


Note to self: “Can do better!”