‘Tech 4’ organising research notes: EndNote (revisited)
I have written here a few times about the difference social media has made to my PhD journey. It has put me in contact with interesting researchers who I otherwise wouldn’t have a chance of ‘meeting’. The most recent surprise was on Instagram, where I found the #phdsupportgroup and met my newest crowd.
In a recent publication Margarida Ferreira wrote:
I briefly replied on her Instagram post, but thought it was worth expanding it a bit here.
I did start writing notes just as Margarida, by hand on my PhD journal, but very shortly it felt very unproductive. Also, it felt like any needed information would take so long to be found that I would probably give up before finding it. So what was the point?
- Add the pdf, if available; or if it is a book and the pdf is not available, I’d open a doc file and type my notes. This would then be converted into a pdf and attached to EndNote.
- Highlight important parts of the texts (using the EndNote highlight tool).
- Make comments (also using the EndNote comment tool).
This means that all my notes, highlights and comments are safe and in the same place: an organised library. The software allows many different ways for searching words, authors, journals, titles, abstracts, pdf and so forth. Some pdfs, however, won’t allow the use of the highlight tool and search words and in these cases you can just search for words on the title or on the information you added to the reference itself. The comment tool always works though, and it is possible to assign the articles and books to groups, if you’d like to sort them by subject, for example.
When I had my PhD dissertation roughly structured I started to add notes such as “insert (Silva, 2011) here”. This ‘(Silva, 2011)’ was already a cross reference from EndNote. When I finally came to reshape the text and make the connections, the process of finding the right references became very straightforward.
In summary, I see a few advantages on using this system:
- You just write (or in this case type) once.
- Easily searchable notes and information.
- If you want a direct citation, it is there ready waiting for you on the pdf or on your comments.
- Pdf and reference are all together and found at once.
It has been working very well for me. The tricky bit is to remember to backup your EndNote library, and I cannot reinforce this enough. You need to make sure you have it all safe.
So this was my system. How have you been keeping your notes?