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System for taking and organising reading notes

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Posted by Lucas
Dec 6, 2011 at 05:03 AM

 

Great discussion! I’m also pursuing a PhD and am an inveterate outliner (and “CRIMP-er”), so I can relate to all the points raised so far. I’ve been thinking about a lot of the same questions, but, not surprisingly, I have yet to come up with a clear solution. A few disjointed thoughts on where I’m at:

—For references, I keep coming back to Zotero, which I love, even although it falls short in terms of analytics and note management (no hierarchical outlining). Citavi has some great features, but Zotero fits my style better, and I like that it is cross-platform and now fully web-accessible. Also, I have more confidence that Zotero will continue and I’ll generally have an easier time getting my references out of it in the future. (Plus more possibilities for sync with hand-helds and the like.)

—For notes, I seem to keep coming back to Tinderbox, although sometimes I find myself switching to OneNote because I want to draw freehand diagrams, add photos/scans of handwritten notes, and so forth. Tinderbox has powerful analytics capabilities, although once I’m done my research (see below), I may try out some of the dedicated analytics packages as well. My guess is that Tinderbox will do the trick though.

—Right now, I’m doing anthropological field research, so I’ve been thinking a lot about various methods of capture. I’ve tried Dragon for transcription of audio notes and OneNote for recognition of handwriting, and it looks like I’ll be receiving a LiveScribe pen over the holidays. Right now everything is still a mess.

Concluding thought: I must confess I love OneNotes intrinsic outlining (“one-pane” style, so to speak) and its powerful incorporation of media, handwriting and drawing. I would love to see some sort of software that had base like OneNote but that also included good reference management and powerful saved-searching and filtering. In the long run, although I see Tinderbox and InfoQube as contenders, I actually see Zotero as the most likely candidate in terms of something that could mature into such an ideal research tool. But as many here have pointed out in the past, a mix of dedicated tools can also be preferable, so I’ll just keep bumbling along for now.

(Sorry for the not very well-wrought post.)

 


Posted by Pavi
Dec 6, 2011 at 07:57 AM

 

Hi again,

@MontrealFan: why are you doing everything through Zotero, instead of using UltraRecall (or similar) and then leveraging the capabilities of Zotero through UR?

@Lucas: if you use Zotero, again UltraRecall is an ideal platform for outlining, since Zotero references can be integrated into Word embedded files inside UR. TreeProjects can probably also do this quite well, although I have not investigated if export of multiple documents to a merged document is possible.

@people taking handwritten notes: I agree! That’s why I am using the Livescribe Echo, and really it is fantastic. Don’t expect 100% OCR with MyScript, OneNote or Evernote, but it’s good enough and then you have the original copy to refer to when in doubt. For me, the main “problem” with handwritten notes is misplacing them or not filing them, as well as double work to scan or enter them into a permanent record. Hence, the brilliance of the Livescribe solution.

@Dr Andus: I forgot another main reason that I think UltraRecall is idea for your setup: they are planning to integrate a Python API, which means that datamining of your database should soon become possible. As an academic, I am actually planning to write some code to do this as soon as they release (stated to be early 2012). Right now, I have templates (forms/attributes) holding the key information I plan to data mine later, so that I can add this capability to exisiting information. Now it is possible to export the data by “Copy grid values”, but I prefer the integrated approach.

Best, /Pavi

 


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Dec 6, 2011 at 12:33 PM

 

@Lucas - I’m curious about your set up. Since you use Tinderbox, you have to be using a Mac. Do you use OneNote with VMWare Fusion or Parallels, or do you use different machines? Also, have you taken a look at Curio? It can do a lot of what OneNote can, and some things OneNote can’t or doesn’t do as well. Specifically, diagramming is more powerful in Curio. The table feature is better and you can create “index cards.” The main thing that Curio can’t do that OneNote can is OCR text from scans or photos. However, Curio does work very well with Evernote—you can embed an Evernote note right in Curio—so there must be a way to leverage Evernote’s OCR capability. I’m not urging you to change what works for you, just wondering if you’ve investigated this.

As for this discussion in general, very interesting. There is clearly no right way. But one thing that we can be sure of, whatever works best today, won’t be the best way three or four years from now. I do some non-fiction writing which requires research, but nothing coming close to the magnitude of the scholars here. Even so, I stumble around quite a bit. I keep references in Bookends, and compile a library of the notes from those references in DevonThink. From DT I pull information as needed into Scrivener perhaps stopping first in Tinderbox if I need to really make sense of the information before going to Scrivener for writing. This kind of work is more my hobby, and I’m dealing with two or three dozen references, not thousands like you all.

Steve Z.

 


Posted by Dr Andus
Dec 6, 2011 at 01:43 PM

 

Pavi wrote:
>@MontrealFan: why are you doing everything through Zotero, instead of
>using UltraRecall (or similar) and then leveraging the capabilities of Zotero
>through UR?
> >@Lucas: if you use Zotero, again UltraRecall is an ideal platform for
>outlining, since Zotero references can be integrated into Word embedded files
>inside UR. TreeProjects can probably also do this quite well, although I have not
>investigated if export of multiple documents to a merged document is
>possible.
> >@Dr Andus: I forgot another main
>reason that I think UltraRecall is idea for your setup: they are planning to integrate
>a Python API, which means that datamining of your database should soon become
>possible. As an academic, I am actually planning to write some code to do this as soon as
>they release (stated to be early 2012). Right now, I have templates
>(forms/attributes) holding the key information I plan to data mine later, so that I
>can add this capability to exisiting information. Now it is possible to export the
>data by “Copy grid values”, but I prefer the integrated approach.
> >Best, /Pavi

Thanks Pavi, I will take another look at your original UR/Zotero post. Actually one reason why I never got into UR is because I discovered NVivo and that turned out to be a very powerful way of bringing all my research data together and analysing it. So I think NVivo is also a worthy contender for the second stage of analysing and organising reading notes (@MontrealFan).

The problem with NVivo is that it is very expensive. Also, it is a resource-hog, similarly to Dragon, and quite slow. But the analytical capabilities are superb and apparently v. 9 (which I don’t have) can handle PDFs and link with EndNote. Also, NVivo have some fabulous tutorial videos, so one can learn it in a day or two, while I admit that I still haven’t got my head around UR completely.

So it sounds like to get a handle on dealing with reading notes for a huge project, at the moment one needs a cross-platform solution for capturing notes (e.g. Evernote) + a powerful database and analytical software (UR, Nvivo, MyInfo) + a reference manager (Zotero, EndNote).

 


Posted by Pavi
Dec 6, 2011 at 02:36 PM

 

Hi,

Regarding NVivo, I am having a hard time understanding how it works, aside from “analyzing patterns in data”. Their website is not straightforward, which is unfortunate given the high price of the product.

Regarding Curio, this product looks amazing, which is unfortunate since I am not a Mac guy… I miss the freeform whitespace of OneNote when using UltraRecall, and am hoping that they improve data input (as is on the roadmap).

Best, /Pavi

 


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