Research What I'm Reading

Everything Old is new Again

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”One of the fun things I read last week, and Yes I do notecards to track what I read.” type=”image” alt=”IMG_1222.JPG” ]

I’ve been trying and failing to manage my research and writing for years now. Mostly, I’ve failed miserably. I’ve tried Zotero. I’ve tried using just Evernote. Nothing work and I found that I just keep getting further and further behind. I wanted to solve this, and so here I am attempting to fix it by going back in time.

While becoming a budding historian at Georgia College, I was taught the note card method for making research notes. It’s similar to this guideline from Hunter College’s writing center discover during a “shot gun” google search: The premise of this method is to take a source and create several note cards the detail the bibliographic information and main points of the source. Usually, you’ll end up with two collections of cards. One set has bibliographic information for all of your sources, and the other contains the main points you’ve found relevant in each source. Usually there’s a cross reference system to attach bibliographic cards with the research notes. I always used a number system so as I found sources I’d give them a sequential number. Each research note card would have number that corresponded to the original bibliographic card. When the research process is over, you could then take your research note cards and write from the notes you taken by putting these cards in an order that tells the story you’ve discovered. All together this is a great system, and one that really helped me do research well before the iPad and the iPhone.

So fast forward a bit, I have abandoned paper in favor of a paperless life style, and I noticed something. I couldn’t really get the things done research wise that I wanted to. I also felt I wasn’t retaining information like a I use. After some thinking and a bit of searching, I got to thinking about how the process of hand writing helped me retain information and focus my often easily distracted brain by giving my hands something to do. It was this thought that made me want to experiment this semester with a revived note card system with a digital twist. What I’ve set out to to do for one semester is to capture academic readings and notes via note cards, but leverage the power of Evernote to serve as my cross referencing system. I’m not sure how it will play out, but so far, Evernote, combined with skitch, has made organizing readings and initial bibliographies a snap. Let’s see how it does for research notes as the semester goes on. My initial work flow is below. Thoughts?


  1. Find source to read for research or class
  2. Document Bibliographic data, summaries source on 3X5 card
  3. If pdf document, add to skitch (mac)
  4. Capture card with Evernote (iphone)
  5. Give card meta data, this included appropriate tags, foldering in research folder (mac or pc)
  6. Link skitch document, web document, etc to digitized card
  7. Take notes on separate card
  8. Link research notes to bibliographic card
  9. Use Evernote links to create outline from research notes


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