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A Stylesheet for Notes

A Stylesheet for Notes

Here we present for refinement some of the fundamental writing practices for Permanent Notes. The linked note genre facilitates readers and writers aiming to capture, share, and reuse networked community knowledge.

Title. The title is the name we give the idea or topic or example outlined on a page. Since we must remember it to link to it, we make titles memorable.

Synopsis. The first full text paragraph of a page should be a summary of what the page is about. We write this first or last or anywhere in between.

Expansion. The middle of the text expands on the subject of the synopsis through text, quotations, links, images, videos. As the page evolves the middle section is often a dumping ground for quotes, links, images. On a temporary basis this is fine. As the page is revised we smooth out the rough ends for the reader.

Associations and Citations. Associations and citations for individual paragraphs go at the end of those paragraphs.

At the end of the page we place relationships of the page to other pages. We add sentences explaining the link with either the link embedded in the text or following it. We add enough links to give the reader some place to go to learn more. Ideally the reader never hits a dead end.

We use links to do more than just share. We use them to model our complex understanding of an issue.

Links are the heart of hypertext. To read and write hypertext effectively, we must understand how links are used. Some of the practices in this style sheet (use and placement of link words, etc.) are specific idioms of the federated wiki. But the larger skills – using links to associate ideas, provide examples, cite sources, and credit authors – are practices we all should master.

Internal and External Links

We distinguish between links to other pages in the wiki federation, and links to documents and sources outside the wiki.

For links to external documents, we place the link at the end of the paragraph or page. We use a single word that gives an indication of the type of page, not the page content, lower case, trailing the paragraph, punctuated only with the automatic off-site link icon that the wiki fills in. A link to a Wikipedia article on wiki, for instance. wikipedia

For links between fedwiki pages, we use the page name in double brackets. Link Word has examples.

Associative links

Associative links relate ideas and examples to one another. A page on a healthy diet might link to a page on computing BMI. A paragraph on cell reproduction might link to a page on how cancer spreads. A page on social interaction under Spanish Flu might link to a page on Xenophobia and Disease. A good personal wiki will have variety of types of associations.

Upward links link the specific and concrete to the general and abstract. A historical account of how the Black Death spread could link to a page on the Mathematics of Pandemics, or the relationship between Trade and Disease. A page on use of Kahoot in the classroom might link to a page on active learning.

Downward links link from the more abstract and general to the more specific and concrete. A page on the use of POV characters in literature might link to an example of POV in Lord of the Flies. A page on Campbell’s theory of the Hero’s Journey might link to a description of the plot of The Odyssey. A page on neurotransmitters or hormones might link to a page on the neurological basis of fear.

Downward links may also supply evidence of a claim. A page or paragraph talking about climate change might link to a dataset or visualization demonstrating it, whereas a page talking about the reasons books were banned in the 1950s might link to a list a banned books. In a lab course, a page on a given phenomenon might link to your own experimental data.

Lateral links link ideas of roughly the same level of abstraction. A page on Teaching with Chromebooks might link to a page on teaching with iPads. A page on Upper Body Strength might link to one on Lower Body Strength. A page on Polio might link to a page on Smallpox (with the association that we are now trying to eliminate malaria the way we eliminated smallpox). While each person’s mix of links may be different, everyone should have some mix. Too little upward linking can indicate a failure to abstract more general theories and patterns from the details. Too little downward linking can indicate a lack of engagement with supporting details, examples, and data. Too few lateral links can indicate a narrow focus and a lack of exploration.

Citation Links

Citation links are generally used to refer to outside resources that are mentioned by the main text, or to provide additional support for or information about the subject of the paragraph or the page.

Citations are also used to credit quoted text or images utilized on the page. All images should be sourced (eventually).

When using citation links, we consider ourselves our own future reader. We want to remember the resources that informed your writing, so we cite and link.

External links use the Link Word convention and appear at the end of the paragraph or page they inform. End of page links should be preceded by a title or description of the link followed by the link word.

Adapted from FedWiki Writing Competencies, M Caufield. 5 Oct 2015 google doc

Adapted from A FedWiki StyleSheet