So. I’m thinking of seriously rebooting my rather shambolic note-taking, research and organizing practices, and I want to think consciously for a bit about what kinds of software or IT solutions out there fit my habits as well as some of my new aspirations best.
The first criteria for me really has to be forward-compatibility, relatively mainstream and well-supported products. I’ve got a bunch of dissertation notes that I took in a custom-created Hypercard database, so let’s just say I learned a hard lesson about not venturing off the pathway too much.
What I’m really looking for is:
1. The best way for me to keep a record of research materials consulted during research that can then be exported as citations in a variety of publication formats while also keeping very clear when and where I consulted these materials.
2. The best way for me to keep tightly connected notes on those materials where I can link to the citation record but can also keep notes of varying length and detail, including direct quotations with page numbers where it is clear to me that those notes are quotations.
3. The best way for me to keep a record of books, articles and other materials I’ve read which are not directly connected to research, with some kind of searchable tagging system that correspond to some of the subject categories I have in my own head. This isn’t important for a specific research project, because everything I’m looking at there, even speculatively, is by definition connected to that project. But when I’m reading more broadly, or in my field of specialization, I do want to have some way to tag or mark my thinking about where this resource fits in my own head (is it good for a course? helps me thinking about a problem I’m concerned with? links distantly to a research project?).
4. The best way for me to take notes connected to this more speculative kind of reading. This is where I’m a bit frustrated right now. I just don’t take these kinds of notes any longer, but I used to. I have a filing cabinet full of articles I read in the late 1980s with no searchable index, just tabs on files, and notebooks full of thoughts about these articles which I’m sure I will never put into electronic form. If I’m going to start taking these kinds of notes again, I want them to last and be useful.
5. The best way to log incoming work like requests for recommendations, connected to a calendar or schedule.
6. The best digital “to-do” list, linked to a calendar. I want room both for ongoing reminders that need to be checked off each day (“write a hour a day on X project”) and specific projects or meetings that have deadlines.