Mind your Ps and Qs

Whether you photocopy journal articles, request reprints, or print potentially helpful information from the Internet, you will soon amass a great many facts and ideas couched in the words of others. The old advice from typesetting days, "mind your Ps and Qs," is worth remembering in this new context.

First, watch the Ps - print materials. It will be tempting to use these copies as a substitute for taking notes. However, because of the way that writing and thinking are related to each other, it is actually more effective if you can begin to digest these written materials as you go along. Adopt a good note-taking procedure right from the start. Take many more notes than you think you need and prune them later. Staple the notes to the print materials so they will remain together through the inevitable subsequent paper-shuffling.

Second, watch the Qs - quoted material. To avoid unintentional plagiarism, always write notes in your own words. Indicate their source. If you must quote directly, use extreme care to identify quoted material either with quotation marks or with the letter Q.

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