November 4, 2009

Please Take My Highlighter Survey

Won't you please take my survey about highlighter colors?

No, I'm not doing formal research on highlighters. This is just for fun and because it's easy to do in Google Forms. But I am also curious.

Posted by James at November 4, 2009 8:08 PM
Create Social Bookmark Links

My highlighter use is actually much more complicated than any of your choices allow.

I do a lot of color-coding with highlighters, and the highlighter I choose also depends somewhat on whether I'm highlighting over inkjet, toner, pen, pencil, etc. and the color of the printed material and the color pen I might also be using to mark items up. (I have non-water-based highlighters that don't smear inkjet print. They're sort of like crayons but not exactly.)

I use highlighters for editing only. I don't recall ever highlighting regular reading, study, or research material. I hate marking up actual books.

At most, I might make light pencil marks in the margin to flag areas of interest. But instead of highlighting things while studying, I wold make study guide documents based on the source material. (That's where the pencil marks came in.) It sounds like it would be more time-consuming, but constructing the study guide ended up being 70% of my study effort anyway. Might not work for everyone, I guess, and in any case I love making documents so it was fun for me.

I used a similar strategy for research papers - any material worth citing, I'd physically pull aside and put on notecards or something so that I'd have only the good stuff which I could then sort through and rearrange to my liking.

For regular reading, if it's something I want to research or discuss with others, I usually just put in a sticky note or tape flag to mark the position on the page.

Incidentally, in the world of highlighters, there's regular yellow and there's fluorescent yellow. I actually hate both of them. Regular yellow doesn't always stand out enough (depending on lighting), and fluorescent yellow hurts my eyes.

Nevertheless, I end up using pink and yellow the most because for some reason those are the ones I always end up with a surplus of at work.

Posted by: Julie at November 5, 2009 7:42 AM

I never liked to mark up books before, but I'm getting more comfortable to the idea, because it is valuable for both learning and reference. I prefer to mark up a photocopy of the pages, but I am writing in some of my textbooks with pencil.

It's more important to capture your thoughts than it is to preserve the pristine nature of the book. Of course, if you have a better and more organized way of capturing your thoughts, like taking notes, that could be even better. But when there is no notebook handy for whatever reason...

And writing in the book has the advantage of preserving the context of your thought.

All that said, I am still loath to do it. Generally I write in a notebook.

As for the complicated way you use highlighters, your practices are very interesting. I created this poll mainly to find out how people feel about the colors that come in one particular pack of highlighters. My own feelings even about that (never mind practices) are more complicated than can be handled with this form. If this were a research project, I'd have to deal with that.

Your comments about the 2 types of yellow are a good example. I hate the non-fluorescent yellow for the same reasons you do. I like the fluorescent one, but it probably would hurt my eyes, too, if I were using highlighters more often. Most often I underline things in pencil. Or circle things.

I was wondering whether people had recognizable feelings about highlighter colors (again, specifically the ones in this pack). I think they're all fluorescent in this pack. But I always felt that blue was too wimpy.

Posted by: James at November 5, 2009 7:56 AM

BTW - I am interested in how people use highlighters in a more detailed way. However, I don't think I could come up with a good, short quantitative survey for that. I would want some qualitative research.

Posted by: James at November 5, 2009 8:03 AM

My handwriting can get pretty scribbly if I use a fine-point pen. When I'm on a roll reviewing something, like a journal article, I'll just make my comments using the highlighter. The fat tip of the Hi-Liter-brand highlighter helps me to write more clearly.

I use Hi-Liter brand exclusively, and always their "Fluorescent Marker" type, usually in pink, sometimes in yellow, less often in orange, and I don't even have one in blue or green; those two colors don't copy well, so future use of a highlighted document is limited if I use green or blue.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 5, 2009 11:32 AM

I totally write all over my books in pencil. I don't highlight generally only because then I have to switch between highlighter and pencil. A book should be a conversation, not a soliloquy...


Posted by: Maggie at November 5, 2009 2:17 PM

Copying is an interesting issue. Some folks want their highlights to copy, others are happier if the highlights don't copy. I hadn't even thought of that.

I have never been a blue highlighter kind of guy, but I don't know why, really.

Posted by: James at November 5, 2009 4:59 PM

I usually highlight a copy to begin with, so I rarely copy something after it's highlighted.

We have color copiers at work though (despite our budget problems, they love to waste money) so I guess if I wanted to copy something that's highlighted, it would work.

Long ago I received a promotional highlighter which was a roller - I don't mean a rollerball pen, I mean like a fat tire from a truck - with little nubs on it, so that if you highlighted something with it, it would highlight in little colored dots (lavender, I believe). So the highlight was easy to see, and if you copied it, you could still read the words through the dots. Clever. But I haven't seen anything like that since.

Posted by: Julie at November 6, 2009 7:35 AM

I had one of those wheel-dot-roller highlighters! I had forgotten about that.

I also have full-color copiers at work, and papers highlighted in yellow, pink, and orange come out alright. I'm still not sure that blue would copy well as I have had difficulty reading text I've highlighted in blue in the past.

James, did you ever think you'd get this much feedback on highlighting? I'd love to know what made you research this. Is Stabilo or Hi-Liter paying you?

Posted by: Patti M. at November 7, 2009 6:55 PM

By the way, I do not write in books--not even with a highlighter. The only book I ever wrote in was my college French textbook. I felt bad about it at first, but made my peace with it.

I remember seeing a guy on the T highlighting the bible. As those of you who know me know, I am not religious. However, seeing that dude write in the bible bothered me.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 7, 2009 6:59 PM

It started because one of our professors asked us to tell him how we read. We had detailed discussions about highlighting. Since I usually underline, I decided to get some highlighters for my reading to see if I might like that better. When I opened the package, I realized that I had definite feelings about which highlighter i'd rather use. I wondered if other people had similar feelings. My poll is a lame attempt to determine that.

Posted by: James at November 7, 2009 10:40 PM

I haven't completely gotten over the aversion I have had that keeps me from writing in books. But the more I think about the nature of thought and learning, the more I realize that what is good about the books isn't the pristine pages. It isn't even the words as they sit on the pages. It has more to do with the process of reading them and interacting with them.

Of course, people read in different ways. I understand that feeling that writing in a book is wrong. But I feel it is ultimately counterproductive for me to refrain from doing it if it prevents me from synthesizing a new understanding.

Posted by: James at November 7, 2009 10:45 PM

Copyright © 1999-2007 James P. Burke. All Rights Reserved