As a researcher, in and out of academia, curating your ideas and findings is important. A notebook and a pen were my tools of choice… until the day I accidentally put one of my notebooks in the washing machine. The notebook contained months of research notes for my doctorate as well as ideas for future research. That day, my love affair with notebooks somewhat dimmed — much like a long-term romantic relationship that has run its course. There is care, even a familial love, but the spark is forever snuffed out.
The soul-destroying experience of accidentally erasing/obliterating all of my work forced me to find other tools to curate my research and my ideas.
I get inspiration everywhere: social media, television shows and life in general. My caveat however is choosing what you allow to shape your imagination. Anything that catches my fancy gets clipped onto Evernote or written in my notebook.
These tools, incidentally, are the same tools I use when I conduct research.
I played around with a few options and my favourite tools are freely available: Evernote, Mendeley and Google Drive. All these applications are both on my smart phone and my laptop. This helps because even if I have had to take a long break thanks to a sick child or a prolonged period of load shedding, everything is readily available to me.
The first tool that I found was Evernote. In my opinion, this tool should be in every researcher’s arsenal. It is an application that works on your mobile devices as well as your computer. It allows you to write notes, clip web articles, project manage… it basically is my notebook on steroids. Julio Peironcely wrote a fun, but useful, article titled, 7 Smart Ways To Use Evernote For Research As A PhD. If you decided to give Evernote a try you should take a look at Elizabeth M Covart’s article on the uses of Evernote from a historian’s perspective. Personally, what I love about Evernote is that I could write a note on my mobile phone and when I get home all I have to do is press the sync button on the Evernote app on my laptop and voila! I can continue my work at home.
Mendeley is another tool that I have decided I cannot do without. The faculty librarian at my university directed me to this application as well as few other similar apps. It is installed on all my mobile devices and computers and I love syncing. It allows for managing research papers and it also has a Word plug-in, so you can insert your citations and bibliography directly from Mendeley into your document. It also has a function that allows for collaboration with colleagues.
Google Drive is a storage application that puts all your information on the cloud. This is very important for me because I record all my interviews on the sound recorder on my mobile phone and save it to Google drive. Not only is this now saved for future reference but also it is synced to my laptop so I can get to work as soon as I have time.
I still travel with a notebook even though I don’t use it as much as before. It is still great to hold on to just because, at some point technology may fail you, and it is always good to have a back up – just don’t put it in the washing machine.