Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Evernote for Research

When I started my PhD, I knew a few things:
1. I'm quite disorganised;
2. I vary between taking notes with a pen and paper, and typing notes;
3. Our flat wasn't large enough to accommodate folders of handwritten notes.

I can't remember how I initially discovered Evernote, but it seemed to be a tool that would suit those three things I knew. Tagging might help me keep my notes organised: being able to scan documents would enable me to work flexibly. And I'm not accumulating mountains of paper.

I'm still early on in the literature review stage, but I've found Evernote to be a really useful tool so far. Rather than offer an overview of how it works, I'm going to focus on the pros and cons of using Evernote for research.

(For context, I use the Evernote app on my phone and also on my mobile.)

Pro: Tagging allows me to cross-reference easily.
Tagging features are almost ubiquitous at this point, but it's incredibly useful for writing a thesis. Evernote allows you to apply multiple tags to a single note. So if a secondary text is referring to one primary text, but also has implications for others, I can tag them too.

Since you can search for specific tags, this means that I can easily pull up all the things I've read about The Knight Who Forgave His Father's Slayer, or all the notes I've made that refer to miscellanies. At this early stage, it's useful. In three, four, or five years' time, it will be invaluable.   

Pro: Evernote allows you to use combine different media.
If I find a diagram, image or figure that is useful to my research, I can quickly take a photo on my phone and save it into a note. Rather than having to pause what I'm doing, scan that page and file it with my notes, I can simply snap a photo (including the source) and come back to it later when it's useful.

I don't really have much need to make use of Evernote Web Clipper, but you might find it useful for your research. It's a browser plugin that will 'clip' webpages and save them to Evernote for you. I might start making use of this when preparing for conferences: this would allow me to keep Call for Papers, travel details and drafts in the same notebook.  

Con: You do need an internet connection.
As I'm using Evernote Web, I do need to be within reach of an internet connection to use it. This isn't too much of a problem for me because I don't mind hand-writing notes so I can work offline. But if you don't care to hand write your notes, this might be a consideration.   

Pro: If I'm working on paper, I can scan my notes and access them away from the office.
I didn't want to commit to always having to work at a computer. Sometimes (especially when working on my own ideas), I prefer being able to draw mindmaps, or work in different colours. So, I write my scribbly notes on paper, then scan and attach them to a note. I tag them as usual and can access them later.

Pro: I can take a note when I'm away from my desk.  
Because I've installed the Evernote app on my mobile, I can also take notes on my mobile. I find bus journeys and walking spark my best ideas. I'm much more likely to have my mobile than a pen and paper with me, so I can quickly make a note.

Con: This is not a word processor.
This is one of my few disappointments with Evernote. Which is silly, really, because I don't think it purports to be a word processor replacement.  It does have some useful word processing features like tables, bulletpoints and hyperlinks. This means it is useful for writing drafts. However, for me, I still need Word for anything that requires footnotes. 

I know using Evernote for a thesis is unconventional (my tutors are still bemused) but it's been 9 months and, for me, it's working well. Do you use Evernote? How have you found it?

1 comment:

  1. I have written a blogpost about how I use Evernote: Check it out!