March 01, 2013

Being organised with your information: Evernote is one useful tool.

Follow-up to Recording information when literature searching from Library Research Support

Organising your information is something absolutely imperative for researchers. There are lots of tools out there to help, and researchers all like to organise things in their own ways, so no one tool is going to suit all researchers. This means that you either have to investigate every new thing (ridiculous!) or listen to someone else's experiences and bear things in mind for one day when you might have a new need. This blog post is about my experiences with tools for organising stuff. I have a new need because I am preparing to leave the University of Warwick (30th April). Another experience many researchers will go through, as changing institution is very much a part of career progression for many.

In the past, I have blogged a few ways to be organised with your references, and have had guest posts from colleagues about reference management tools before, too.

I wrote here recently about organising bookmarks using online tools, and how I liked Diigo. Once or twice on this blog I have also mentioned Evernote, and that's the tool I'm currently playing with because it's been recommended by researchers at Warwick.

What I like about Evernote is that I can forward e-mails into it, and I can set it up to mirror folders on my computer so that all my e-mails and documents are tagged and accessible in the same place. I can also clip items from the web and create a copy of them to refer to later, and of course I can use my tags for them too. So I can get material from whichever source all into the same tagging system which is great, because I keep having to replicate my folder structures and it's much better to have all my re-usable stuff in one place, and tagged properly. Tags are sooo much better than folders, too, because you can have more than one per item!

I've been busy clipping my own blog entries into Evernote because this is a bit of an open notebook, and all my entries are tagged: I use this material when preparing workshops and presentations. Now I can just look on Evernote for my own blog entries, emails etc, and stuff I've clipped that has been written by others, all on the same theme. Plus, if Warwick ever decides to delete this blog after I've left, I'll have my own copies of my blog entries on Evernote.

I can use Evernote in at least three different ways:

  1. By logging into my account on the web.
  2. By opening up the software installed on my computer.
  3. By using the Evernote App on my phone.

I think that all three are going to be handy.

I will probably still use my folders, but Evernote provides a way of collecting items for a particular project or need, whilst also creating copies of them which is a kind of back-up for me.

I do wish that I could import all my bookmarks into Evernote from Diigo: that doesn't seem to be possible. But perhaps it is better to use both tools. I expect that I'll maintain my web bookmarks collection for when I want to record a whole website, but perhaps use the Evernote web clipping tool for when it's a particular page that I'm interested in, and that will also help me to overcome the problem of broken links that I get with my bookmark collection, because if the content is clipped then I will still be able to read it!

There might even be times when I will want to both bookmark on Diigo and clip onto Evernote, because Evernote is my own store, but Diigo is a route I use to share stuff with others. Incidentally, I don't have lots of network contacts on Diigo itself as a way of sharing, but I Tweet things that I bookmark on Diigo. I don't actually use Diigo's own feature for tweeting an item because it involves too many clicks and steps from me each time I bookmark. Instead, I've used IFFT (If this then that) to set up a rule for Diigo items to get automatically tweeted. But that is all about sharing my information and this blog post is meant to be about organising it! So many tools serve more than one purpose.

I expect that for proper research articles that I collect, I'll always want to use a reference management tool as well. Because they can create proper references for me by importing metadata and they can create lovely formatted references for me when I write anything formal, too. And they can do networking and sharing things, and "shout about my profile" things too.

Evernote isn't quite the "one ring to rule them all" for me to organise my information. But that's probably a good thing because I'd hate to rely on one tool for everything and then have it crash or want to bill me a small fortune for using it! And by using other tools as well, I get the benefit of all their other features for sharing and profile-raising.

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