Overview: Tags help you notice unique ideas and organize flexibly.

When you begin taking notes, you usually don't have enough background to recognize recurring patterns or original ideas. Wait until you've created notes for a couple of sources, then read back through your notecards and tag them with a color or text. When you search on tags, you'll find that the grouping may suggest a new subtopic or different sequence in your outline.  Viewing attributes in new ways prompts your creativity! 

Tags are most useful when:

You think you've got THE answer. One source seems to have everything solved for you. You think: I’ll just use this author’s argument, restate it in my own words and I’m done. An easy choice – no original thinking and, actually, pretty boring. To open yourself to new ideas, try tagging those "perfect" notecards for different leads, evidence you've ignored, or something that pops out on a second reading.Then add those keywords to your search.

You are conflicted about arguments. Who’s right? What’s the truth here? You have lots of notecards but you’re seeing details and not the big picture.  You’d like to believe you have answers but the more you read, the more it feels just too big. That makes it hard to oganize for writing. Tagging can bring together a theme or thread you've missed - and help you clarify an argument. 

You keep on searching and searching. You just don’t feel ready to write, so you just keep collecting – and stalling – even after the results are repetitious. That's a sign that you could try looking through your notes for open questions or puzzles you've ignored, rather than answers you've confirmed.

This article applies to: 

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Tags are small bits of information not in a notecard title or text. 

Text tags can be a word, phrase, acronym or numberThe software will suggest text tags you've used as you start to type.

Tip #1: Use more general tags for specifically-named people, places and things.

  • Occupations or roles instead of the name of a person (e.g., "artist activist" for Ai Weiwei or GP for various family doctors)
  • Countries or regions for the names of specific places (e.g., "Vietnam" for Lam Dong Province or "Pacific States" for California, Oregon and Washington).
  • General terms for particular objects in a category (e.g.,"vaccine" for Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sputnik V).

Tip #2: Use tags to express a range of numbers, especially if you'll be using data that uses those categories
  • Number range (e.g., "700-800" for 712, 715, 780) 
  • Date range (e.g., "1900-1910" for 1902, 1906, 1908).
  • Age range (e.g., "18-24" for young-adult voters, as in Census data) 

Tip #3: Use tags for implied ideas.
  • Unique phrases used in other notecards that apply to this notecard (e.g., "confirmation bias" or "gerrymandering").
  • Words that reveal a point of view (e.g, "Japan POV" for Senkaku Islands and "China POV" for Diaoyo Islands)
  • Interpretation of visuals or sounds (e.g., "optical illusion,"Impressionist," "cadenza," and "metaphor")
  • Genre or format (e.g., data, quote, eyewitness, primary source, experiment, survey, critic, opinion, photo, chart, map and cartoon).

Tip #4: Use tags for a teacher's specific requirements:
  • Teacher's name. When teachers collaborate on a project, they may split up the work.  For example, you might be asked to label certain notecards with the appropriate subject-area teacher's name.
  • A letter from a project-specific acronym, like Geography, Religion, Art and Architecture, Politics, Economics, Social (GRAPES) or Political, Economic, Religion, Social, Intellectual/Arts, Area/Geography (PERSIA)

Tip #5: Add colors to a notecard.  They can visually show large categories, for example:
  • Sides or parts  (e.g., green for pro and red for con for sides in an argument; red for problemsgreen for solutions and blue for actions for parts of a problem-solving process).
  • When comparing different versions of the same myth, assign each retelling a different color. 

Tip #6: Add visual cues for certain actions and reminders. For example, a question mark alerts your teacher that you need help and a lightbulb reminds you that you've done some terrific thinking you don't want to forget about in one notecard's "My ideas" field.

Searching notecards:

Standardize language. To make searching useful, standardize slightly variants of the same word (e.g., quote/quotes, Japan's/Japan, immigrants/immigration). 
  • Click on "Manage Tags" in the "More" (three dots) button on the Notecards Tabletop View screen to edit or delete tags.

AND search by more than one term or tag to find notes that contain both properties. 

  • When you search both the color red and the tag "map" you will only get notecards that are both red AND tagged "map."
  • When you search a keyword and the text tag "quote" you will only get notecards in which the keyword appears in the title or text of the notecard and which you've tagged with the word "quote."