Academic writing tips 4 : Summarize your references in a “Technical Notes”

How do you start your writing ? well first, you have to have background knowledge. Put some information inside your brain. And to make it easier to understand to recall, make a summarize. This is the form of knowledge that I usually use and teach to my students. Technical Notes.

To start with, ask your self, what is your main interest ? or what is your research question to begin with ? In this article, or you might do so, I am using a software to help. A mindmap. This is a diagram used to visually organize information. I am using VYM which is work in my Linux Mint. You can use many free mind map software depends on your operating system.

Let say you want to study/research in Hospital Information System Analysis. Actually you can divide this question become to main topic. An analysis and the Hospital Information System (HIS).

And before you start, of course you have to know about Information system it self. And then about the HIS it self. Since you are ,pretend as, the student of master of hospital administration — the management or economic aspect of HIS is one of your interest. Make a branch of it.
As stated above, that the topics are two, the HIS and the Evaluation. Make a new node about Evaluation, separate from the HIS (for now, you might find out later, where is the connection branch / topic).

Let focus in Information System. How to develop the basic knowledge ?
What I like to do when I do not familiar at all with the topic, then I will google it. Usually wikipedia will help to get the overall idea. But read it with a grain of salt. And/or, open 2-5 other website in google. Usually you will have little bit understanding of the main idea of your topic. Kind of.

Then try to extend the branch of Information system, based on your first reading. You might find the branch become like this below.
For the purpose of this article, the branch of mind map above will be our focus to develop the Technical Notes.

What is Technical Notes, this is just a summary. The goal is simple, make a summary of what we already read. And with this notes, we are able to share the summary to somebody else. With this notes, we can track how far or how deep our reading material is.

I started to make technical notes too when I took PhD in NUIG Ireland. This help me a lot when I was making my systematic review (doi 10.1016/j.pec.2015.06.004). To understand so many information in a form which is easy to remember by us, is important.

Basically, the mind map above is helping you to understand and visualize your idea. And you can start from there. Start to make 1 Technical Notes for each branch. In that case, information system, economic aspect of information system, and the hospital information system.
Don’t worry, by the time your study period, your reading is more and more, your mind map will be change. This is snow ball effect, you will get a new keywords, or new topics/aspects in which interest you or important for your research. For example, start with information system (IS) and you will make notes just for describing the branch component of IS alone because it will it will take a lot of space in IS notes. And also that you might realize that, the component of IS is a topic that you have to dig or read more.

Now we will make the technical notes. You should make 2 column. Left column is your question or concept you want to know the answer. The right column is the answer. What kind of questions ? Anything you want to know… just anything
For the answer, just copy and paste the answer from the source. At least 3 sources for each question. AND, use valid document, for example peer review journal paper, books, or official document.
Use zotero as tools to cite.

Write your question, and find the answer.

And with the help of Zotero, you can track where is the source of that information

This is the sample of the technical notes. Click here.

From the example above, I hope that you can make your own technical notes. For each branch become one technical notes. If you find that there is “thick branch” because of some specific topics in that branch. Then you should consider to make new technical notes.
Look at the mind map above. From the Information System branch, you have to make another notes just for component of IS.

This is the snow ball effect. And with this system, you will have plenty of technical notes just to answer one research questions. This is good for your Theoretical background chapter. Even you can make review of methods, by making technical notes with the source of method sections from journal paper.

But sometimes, even to start the process, we don't know where or what to search or ask, so the easiest way is 
to start with questioning the definitions of each word. Or definition of the terms. 
Start with the question "what is ... ?" .

When you develop this questions, you could ask help your friend to sit together with you to create the questions.
Remember, two heads always have more thought compare to one.

After developing the technical notes, you are ready to write your paper. Be careful with copy-paste from your notes directly to your writing. It is a plagiarism. Please DO paraphrasing the sentences.

Look at another example below, I did paraphrase the sentences by combining facts from 2 or 3 sources. To make it easier, make into different color (ie blue) the sentences that you are copy and paste. Whilst your own sentences are black. So you know that you can use the black sentences in your paper.
Note : one of citation, chapter 1, is still a raw data from internet source. I have not fix the bibliography.  In this case, when the writer put up his/her book chapter in website, the zotero will save it as news/blog type. Hence you have to fix manually by downloading the bibliography from (the easiest).

Remember to track your mind map. If your branch is far  growing and making another branches, you probably has to stop to read/discuss that topics. You might too far away from your main topics. You’ll get lost in the jungle of knowledge. In some other case, when some branches grow, we will move that branch to the other branch.

Enjoy your writing.
And start making your own technical notes.