Scribe Guidelines (U)

Scribing is an undergraduate-only course component. Undergraduates may earn up to 3 points for scribing lectures or project workshops/presentations. At present, I do not plan to have students scribe paper presentations, but if this turns out to be a lively class and there is demand, that may change.

Why scribe?

In many classes, students copy down from the board what the professor writes...which come from the professor's notes. Why not just give students those notes? There are several objectives, including but not limited to: (1) controlling the rate of information flow, (2) ensuring each step is clear, allowing students to ask clarifying questions, and (3) encouraging students to engage with the material in detail, in real time.

When you elect to scribe for this course, it means you will engage with the course material in a detailed, systematic fashion. Scribing is not transcription; as a student, you should view scribing as part of a pedagogical toolkit.

How to scribe

Scribing should happen in two phases: during the first phase you will be taking contemporaneous notes and during the second phase you will write up your notes.

Phase 1: Taking notes

Taking notes is hard! It is especially challenging in classes that are discussion-based, where multiple people may be talking at once, and where conversations may happen at a much faster speed than lecture. When taking notes, do not expect you will be able to participate at the same level of engagement as you would, were you not taking notes. Do, however, feel empowered to interrupt whenever you miss something.

Handwriting vs. Typing

You are free to whatever medium for note-taking works best for you. If you do not consider yourself to be a good note-taker, consider using scribing to try out different methods of note-taking to see what works best for you.

Anecdata: I, personally, have always struggled with note-taking. I never looked back at my notes and never understood the purpose. It was not until the middle of graduate school until I learned to take notes as a way that worked for me: I would just write what I heard and generally not look at what I was writing. This meant that early on I had a lot of typos and portions of my notes that were effectively illegible. Eventually, they started to look like this. I also found it helpful to share my note document with someone as I was typing to help check my understanding live. You can see an example of this here, where my then-advisor responded to my notes in real time. I will allow up to two students to scribe per-meeting; if you find that paired note-taking works well for you, feel free to employ this method.

On the use of recording devices

You may use recording devices to aid in your note-taking. However, this is very likely to end up being more work than taking contemporaneous notes!

Phase 2: Writing up notes

To reiterate: scribing is not transcription! While it is possible to take notes in a way that ends up differing very little from its final form, I expect most students to see a signficant change from their raw notes to the final version.

Write-ups will be due by 11:59pm on the day you scribe, throughout September. The purpose of this deadline is twofold:

  1. It ensures that you re-engage quickly.
  2. It ensures that you don't spend a long time on write-ups.
  3. It gives me time to give you feedback during September.

During September, I will be giving feedback on scribed notes by 9am the next day. You will have the opportunity to re-submit your notes after receiving feedback before 11:59pm on the next day (i.e., the same day I submit feedback) to improve your grade.

In October, we will move to having notes due at 11:59pm on the day after you scribe.

In summary:

  • September: Suppose you take notes on a Monday. You must submit your notes that evening, by 11:59pm. I will provide feedback before 9:00am on Tuesday. If you score a 3, excellent! If you score lower than a 3, I will provide suggestions to improve your score. You can then choose to implement them and if you do, submit your revision by 11:59pm on Tuesday.
  • October: Suppose you take notes on a Monday. Then you should submit your notes by 11:59pm on Tuesday.

Note: Late notes will not be accepted. There is no grade penalty for not submitting your notes. If you fail to submit your notes and do not have the usual documentation (i.e., medical or personal reasons), you will be de-prioritized for future scribing.

For what your final form should look like, see the section on how you will be graded.

How to submit your notes

There will be entries in Blackboard for you to submit your notes. This will be listed as an assignment for everyone, but I will only grade those who have volunteered to scribe. I will set up submission entries for each week no later than Sunday night of that week.

Notes should be in pdf format, written in LaTeX. I have written a template on Overleaf to help you get started. You can either create an Overleaf account and copy this template, or download and compile LaTeX locally. If you are new to LaTeX, I recommend the former.

How you will be graded

Scribe notes will be graded on completeness, correctness, and legibility. I do not expect you to produce transcriptions, but I do expect some narrative structure; the Overleaf template contains more detailed information on what this looks like.

Scribe notes with egregiously incorrect information cannot be distributed and will result in a grade of 0. If there is factually incorrect information in the notes, I will ask you to either correct them or remove them. If I've asked you to correct them, but you do not have time to do, I recommend merely removing those sections.

If you receive less than full credit for your notes, I will give you concrete feedback on how to revise your notes to earn full credit.