12. Taking Notes. In reading for your argument, as for all scholarly reading, form early your habits of taking thorough and serviceable notes. Nothing is more tantalizing than to remember that you once ran across a highly important fact and then not be able to recall the place in which it is to be found.
One of the most convenient ways to take notes for an argument is to write each fact or quotation on a separate card. Cards convenient for the purpose can be had at any college stationer or library-supply bureau. If you use them, have an ample supply of them, so that you will not have to put more than one fact on each. Leave space for a heading at the top which will refer to a specific subheading of your brief, when that is ready. Always add an exact reference to the source—title, name of author, and, in case of a book, place and date of publication, so that if you want more material you can find it without loss of time, and, what is more important, so that you can fortify your use of it by a reference in a footnote. When you find a passage that you think will be worth quoting in the original words, quote with scrupulous and literal accuracy: apart from the authority you gain by so doing, you have no right to make any one else say words he did not say. If you leave out part of the passage, show the omission by dots; and in such a case, if you have to supply words of your own, as for example a noun in place of a pronoun, use square brackets, thus . On the following page are examples of a convenient form of such notes.
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The streets have been kept cleaner than ever before for $35,000. The rates for electric lights have been reduced from $90 to $65. Gas rates have dropped again from $22 to $17. Water rates have dropped from 30c to 20c per 1000 gal. The disreputable district has been cleaned up and bond sharks driven out of business.
The Des Moines Plan of City Government, World’s Work, Vol. XVIII, P. 11533.
“Now city business is almost wholly administrative and executive and very little concerned with large plans and far-reaching legislation. There is no occasion for two legislative bodies, or even one, in the government of a city.... Now and then a question arises which the will of the whole people properly expressed may best settle; but for the prompt and conclusive expression of that will the initiative and referendum are now well-recognized means.”
C. W. Eliot, City Government by Fewer Men, World’s Work, Vol. XIV p. 9419.
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In making notes, whether for an argument or for general college work, it is convenient, unless you know shorthand, to have a system of signs and abbreviations and of contractions for common words. The simpler shorthand symbols can be pressed into service; and one can follow the practice of stenography, which was also that of the ancient Hebrew writing, of leaving out vowels, for there are few words that cannot be recognized at a glance from their consonants. If you use this system at lectures you can soon come surprisingly near to a verbatim report which will preserve something more than bare facts.