In my paid job (which is not related to my PhD), I have been travelling around England delivering training over the last couple of weeks. During one of the icebreakers, we asked people to tell us one thing they were good at. I found myself saying that I was good at being organised (I know, exciting stuff!). This is true when it comes to my day job. I have to be organised there, coordinating networks of people, events, and activities. But is this the same when it comes to my PhD?
I’ve recently been working towards a more methodical and accessible way to organise my research. Most of my information and references are currently saved in a big folder on my hard drive (backed up, obviously!), divided into lots of different folders and sub-folders. To be honest, that’s worked fine mostly, as it’s easy enough to do a word search in Windows if I’ve forgotten where I’ve saved something or I want to look up what I’ve written about a particular word or phrase. However, this means I only have access to my work when I am on my own laptop, and I know that my documents are not organised in the most logical way any more (things often grow in different directions than i originally anticipate).
Recently, after listening to my friend singing its praises, I downloaded Evernote and am now collecting all my notes in there. I’m finding it pretty useful so far, and it’s great that I can save and organise my notes whichever computer I am working from (as I can access them online). Also, I like that i can tag my notes, and I think this is going to be prove much more intuitive when I am pulling content together for chapters and papers.
When it comes to referencing systems, I’ll admit that so far I have only really half-heartedly tried using them. I tried Zotero for a while, but we didn’t gel somehow (although I know there are lots of fans of Zotero out there), and so a couple of months ago I downloaded Mendeley. I’m still in the (very slow) process of adding in my references – it seems like one of those things that is never quite urgent enough to actually use my precious time to do it. Not sure I like Mendeley any better than Zotero to be honest – anyone have any tips for the easiest and quickest way to manage your references – especially if you’re already more than half way through your project?
What did recently get me very excited though, was Scrivener, which helps you draft and edit very long documents (e.g. a thesis!). I downloaded the trial version about a month ago, and loaded everything I had written into it, and started playing around with it. Suddenly the thought of actually drafting my thesis seems a less daunting task! If you haven’t tried it, I would definitely recommend it, although you do need to take some time to go through the tutorial to understand how it works. Plus, there is a cost involved once your trial is done (£25 for students).
And last but not least, it’s that exciting time of year when I get to buy a new academic diary! My friend said I was the only person she knew who still used a paper diary, but really, I can’t live without it (and anyway, I know lots of people that have them!). Of course I have an Outlook calendar at work, but as I don’t have a fancy phone or ipad, I need something I always have with me to be able to fit together my work, study, social and other activities into one coordinated whole. So here’s a picture of my new beautiful diary, and the (matching!) multi-colour pen I bought, which I will be using to colour-code my life for the next year.