With just a few weeks until my final version of my PhD research proposal is due I have been reading frantically all the while petrified that I will forget something important. Since commencing my research journey nearly 3 years ago I have read hundreds of journal article, book chapters and newspaper articles. How do you remember what’s important?
I have always been one for writing it down, as simply reading it doesn’t seem to get it into my head. Revision used to see me renoting all my work. I have followed a similar approach to my reading for my research but as I am reading information today that I might need in two or three years time, how do you make it logical and more importantly able to be found?
About two and a half years ago I realised this was going to be a major issue. I consulted widely as to how my fellow students, supervisors and others were approaching this. The answers were varied: hand written notes attached to files of printed out articles, Word, Excel Spreadsheets, NVivo and the list went on. NVivo sort of made sense because of its power as a research tool but it seemed expensive even as a student and perhaps more importantly was not favoured by my then supervisor.
What to do?
I had been experimenting with a software package, Evernote over the previous year or so. It had been useful for storing personal data and travel information. It’s a database that was simple to use so I thought I’d give it a go for my research.
I created Notebooks, initially “Honours” and “Literature” and then this year “PhD” and then a series of relevant tags that are able to be searched across all of the Notebooks. Starting from scratch I now have over 500 individual easily searchable notes across the three Notebooks. I have numerous other Notebooks covering various topics. I can search by tags that might be the year of publication or topic etc. Another awesome feature is the ability to Clip a document, webpage, email or handwritten note with one click directly into the relevant Notebook but where Evernote has been most beneficial is that the Premium version (about AUD$100 per year) searches by key word including across pdfs! That has been gold and is what prompted this post.
I was working on a segment of my Literature Review and realised that a link between one of my definitions and the research method required more work. By going to Evernote and doing a keyword search I found all of my notes on the topic with the keyword highlighted. From there I was able to go tidy up the gap through a combination of my notes and the article itself. I found information that I’d read over two years ago alongside information that I’d read just a few minutes before – just GOLD!
Evernote syncs automatically between my computer, iPad and iPhone and is available in the cloud so I can access it from any computer. With all of my literature stored in the cloud it is truly ubiquitous. As a result Evernote is now integral to my study BUT with that has come a fear of what happens if one day it stops? This is my private nightmare!!!!
As my Evernote Notebooks get bigger so the nightmares have become more regular. Sure the provider is a sizeable company but still they might fail. There is a back up mechanism but would the data be readable in another format? It is also able to be converted to OneNote but OneNote doesn’t seem as flexible. What to do? I decided that I would pdf all of my key notebooks. While it would be near on armageddon if Evernote failed I would at least have a backup which was accessible.
Evernote has been integral to my research. Its easy to use incredibly powerful, accessible from everywhere and easy to use.