How Do You Manage Your Research Notes?

December 10, 2017Filed under blog#writingMarkdown source

I started thinking again today about how I want to tackle reading and writing and organizing my notes and the like. Scribbling things in journals is one good approach (though it can be hard to find things later), and organization is something of a problem—I’ve considered a notebook-per-subject approach, but the problem is that my interests are cross-disciplinary; and in any case, for everyone, research often includes the unexpected insight from an apparently unrelated field. So segregating things off that way seems like the kind of thing that would ultimately still just end up frustrating me.

Using tools like pinboard is another approach. It’s a particularly valuable one for digital articles and the like, and it has the tag-like architecture I’ve come to think is most appropriate for organizing this kind of content. However, I haven’t yet upgraded to the full article archive mode it offers, and search-ability remains something of a bugbear for me as a result. (My lasting problem remains remembering where I read something specific.)

And bringing all the pieces together—notes scribbled in the margins of books and highlights or underlines in the same; thoughts jotted out at length in a paper journal; pinboard links; half-finished blog posts which helped me formulate ideas even if they never went anywhere—is its own task I have no handle on. Four and a half years of graduate education exacerbated the problem rather than suggesting solutions.

So I’m curious to hear, especially from working scholars and writers out there—into whose company I’d like to slowly grow myself in the years ahead—how in the world do you manage your research notes?