Quite recently, Liz Gloyn tweeted (in the middle of a conversation about EndNote) a blog post of hers from May 2011 called ‘Tech tools and research’. It should come as no surprise that I’m very excited by other people’s research processes (sometimes more than their research outputs *cough*), and I love the idea of posting about the tools people use, so I thought I’d share some of the things I use. You’ll notice, however, that I’ve added two extra commas when adapting Liz’s title to my own needs.
Like Liz I’ve also found that using tech that suits me, rather than just for the sake of using gadgets, is the best approach (I did spend a long time trying to get along with a tablet though). So, what I use is fairly simple.
I write by hand. I do the vast majority of my planning by hand, and I write all my research notes by hand using a Parker fountain pen and a soft-cover Leuchtturm1917. Writing by hand is not for everyone, but here’s why I do it:
After that, notes and plans go into OneNote, where I have sections for different things, and have downloaded an add-on that lets me sort pages by alphabetical order. So, it looks like this:
All my references and PDFs are stored in EndNote, which I adore. I also use EndNote to keep a ‘back up’ copy of all my notes. I integrate EndNote with Word, where I do all my actual writing, using the Cite While You Write add-on. EndNote is great, and once its set up the CWYW integration with Word is fantastic but I will say this: if you’re thinking about moving to a reference manager of any type (either from another reference manager or from typing up your own notes and bibliographies) I cannot stress how much time you will save by getting some training! I started using EndNote when I was an Honours student, I took a one-and-a-half-day course on it, and I have never looked back. A day and a half might seem like overkill on a reference manager, but these programs actually have a lot of functionality outside just storing lists of references. For instance, you can put in quite a lot of metadata about each reference and then search whole libraries using that. CWYW is great, and the ability to (almost) immediately change a whole document from one referencing style to another have saved me loads of time. You can create a new style in EndNote itself that directly adheres to a journal’s style sheet, and then it’s just pressing a button and a quick check and it’s done – learning how to do this, and how to properly write new styles, is part of the training that you should get!
Okay, Word. I use Word 2016, and I have a Microsoft 365 subscription. There isn’t much to say about Word that hasn’t been said, and everyone pretty much knows how to use it. I also keep everything in the cloud on OneDrive, and am pretty on top of making sure that my OneDrive folders are sensibly organised.
For online things. I do not, emphatically, use Chrome. I use Opera, both on my laptop and my phone. It’s personal preference, really. For Twitter I mainly use Tweet Deck on my laptop and Fenix on my phone. I have an academia.edu page, obviously, but I don’t have a Linked In. I kind of don’t see the point of it. My website it hosted and built on Weebly, and I also use YouTube, both for posting my own vlogs and (mainly) for watching other people’s vlogs.
Finally, I keep my life completely together with my Filofax Bullet Journal. I don’t use the Bullet Journal system in the original way (in that I don’t use Dailies or Rapid Log anything). You can check out my first Bullet Journal here, and the second:
I use this for both my research planning (which is what I mostly talk about), but also my day-to-day planning, appointments, events, life-related stuff, teaching, and note-taking.
For my weekly planning I use a Dutch Door, which is where a two-page weekly spread has smaller daily pages in the middle of it.
For longer term planning I use a Calendex, which is like a calendar and an index rolled into one.
My next vlog will be about how I integrate everything together to do the actual research – but I’ll also post a Plan With Me-style video on my weekly set up.
So that’s it. That’s how my brain functions on paper (and it is mainly on paper!). Don't forget you can also check out all the pictures I post of my Research Bullet Journal on Instagram!
I’d love to hear about what other people use for their research, and how it all fits in together!
The Bullet Journal system is a simple, analogue, completely adjustable, and personalisable organisation tool. So, after a long while of using a Moleskin week-to-view diary (with a vertical weekly spread on one side and a note page on the other).
Here's a guide to get started, by the Bullet Journal system creator Ryder Carroll: HERE! But, there's so much you can do with it (a brief search on Pinterest or YouTube will give you a bunch of great ideas!).
I'm integrating some of the simple Bullet Journal ideas with some more traditional project management styles - you can follow along with the day-to-day of my organisation on the Research Journal Instagram.
And: you can see a flip-though of my journal below!
One week on, this is what my Research Journal looks like (including some much needed non-work related spreads - because part of the reason I wanted to adopt this system is so I could remind myself that there is more to life than research!
Yesterday, I read a Chronicle ProfHacker article on Productivity through Accountability, and it could almost have been written by me. I am incredibly motivated by numbers - whether that's seeing a word count creep up (or down!), or seeing the reading pile get smaller and smaller, or filling notebooks with ideas and notes. Incidentally, it's also why I have a Garmin Vivosmart, and why I don't mind running laps or doing an out-and-back.
Earlier this year, I decided (following the advice of the wonderful Dr Marple) that this year I'd work on monthly goals (rather than a yearly resolution). And, well - I've failed to do so all but one month. So, I've decided to revive the monthly goals!
Goals for June
That's probably enough to be getting on with for now. In the spirit of accountability, I guess I will also come back and update this list and things move on!
How do you keep track of your monthly or yearly goals? How do you define deadlines for them (this is something I'm kind of struggling with!)? I'd be really interested to hear about your goal-setting!
If you like what I do here, and on YouTube and Twitter, you can buy me a pinch of fairy dust.