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System for taking and organising reading notes

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Posted by Dr Andus
Dec 6, 2011 at 02:47 PM


Pavi wrote:
>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.

As I said, I found the tutorial videos very helpful. Here are the videos for v. 9 (though I watched the ones for v. 8):


Posted by Lucas
Dec 6, 2011 at 04:31 PM


@Stephen, thanks very much for your thoughts:

>@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

I use a MacBook Pro running Parallels. Parallels works brilliantly, but the only issue is that it needs a whole bunch of RAM. I think that’s fair enough given all the work that it does, but I find myself wishing I had more than 4 GB RAM in my machine.

On the other hand, my brother uses two machines (one Windows, one Mac) but just one mouse and keyboard via the free Synergy software. (synergy-foss.org)

> 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.

Great point—- I like Curio (still haven’t bought it), but I had forgotten about the Evernote possibilities. The problem is that I’m a stickler for metadata. OneNote barely cuts it in this regard, but at least it records a specific time stamp for every line of text, so that if I go back and edit some fieldnotes, I can keep track of when I wrote what. And the tagging features of OneNote provide further metadata possibilities—- nothing like Tinderbox or InfoQube, but at least some basics. Whereas Curio seems to be too limited in this regard. (The same goes for the otherwise remarkably capable GrowlyNotes.)

(Interesting that you’re using DevonThink and Bookends. They’re both high on my list for further trying out. It seems that getting one’s data from Zotero to Bookends is a bit of a process, but should be possible either via the free Mendeley and/or the free trial of Sente.)


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Dec 6, 2011 at 07:46 PM


@Lucas, just for the record, Curio has a fairly powerful meta data scheme, especially for an application like this. You can assign tags, flags, start and due dates and even resources to any individual item (line of text, diagram node, etc…). It does not (at least not that I could see) assign a created date automatically. Another handy feature is that a diagram can be converted instantly to an outline and vice versa.

BTW, the other way that OneNote is better is in its ability to share notebooks and collaborate on entries.

Steve Z.


Posted by Lucas
Dec 6, 2011 at 08:12 PM


@Steve, thanks, you’re right! I do have an occasional bad habit of making rushed judgments on software and commenting on that basis. Although I only have an expired trial of Curio, I’m now having a look at the saved search functionality, and I like what I see. Perhaps I’ll contact Curio support to see about a new trial. Thanks again.


Posted by Dr Andus
Dec 7, 2011 at 11:16 PM


MontrealFan wrote:
>All of them have great features, but none of them beat Zotero for collecting sources (including a huge collection of existing pdfs) and importing
>the citation information easily. I am hoping that this new way of taking notes will pay off for the ?second phase? that Dr. Andrus was talking about.
>  I would love to hear more about what workflow others are using for this second phase!

I have thought about this a bit more and I’m coming to the conclusion that probably NVivo 9 is the most sophisticated tool out there for analysing a large amount of reading notes. Apparently it’s possible now to import your EndNote or Zotero references with any attached PDFs and notes straight into NVivo. Of course it’s also possible to import regular text, doc or RTF files as well. Once in NVivo, there are a host of analytical features to classify and link items together and extract the essential stuff. This video (after the 9 min mark) explains how to do it:


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