101 questions for academics/students ...

I am in the position of coming back to study after abandoning a PhD (and an academic career that was underpaid and overworked!) a couple of years ago.

The last time I was studying, I was straddling a cusp of analogue/digital for my work that was uncomfortable & time consuming as I was always looking for ways to improve & manage the project I was working on

I am going back this year to do a Grad Dip & because it is in a different area from my usual one, I consider this an excellent time to really try to build my research from the ground up in a digital format. This would include lecture notes onwards. I envision building notes, research, bibliography etc all from the start on a computer.

I currently own NoteBook & am testing Scriv. I also have SOHOnotes )and am comparing yojimbo)

If you were starting again, from scratch, what would your approach be?

Would you use a laptop for lecture/tutorial notes (& what program would you use for this?)

What software would you use for your workflow & how would you go about using it?

Any other suggestions?

I have just made 2x ‘test’ projects for the semester:

One in NoteBook with dividers for
admin stuff etc
One binder for each course with sub-binders for lecture notes, tute notes, assignments, reading lists, notes from reading, clippings/research

I have set up a scriv project with similar

At the moment, I see myself using the following:
Notebook for everything connected to the semester

Scriv for writing assignments, importing research and relevant quotes/notes for each paper

SOHO/Yojimbo for storing of stuff initially if a)it is personal b) I am unsure if I will use it, or c) it’s an initially query to be followed up only at this point

Bookends for biblio etc

Mellel or similar for final output with Bookends

Filing cabinet for documents etc … (not sure on retrieval/storage system here?)

Has anybody used anything similar to manage their research digitally?

Any feedback and/or suggestions on whether this is even feasible?

I am happy to buy a laptop if this is something that can work but I am used to taking/making notes with a pen & paper & then putting a document together from my analogue notes & I am unsure if this type of a system can actually be successful as I need things to be simple in order to be productive …

Also - has anybody got feedback re turning ALL readings (apart from items that are owned) into pdf’s or something along those lines?

I’m not sure if I am being unrealistic? - it was not too long ago that doing something like maintaining a large virtual library was next to impossible due to hard drive limitations and the lack of quality devices. hence my ‘straddling’ …

Any thoughts/suggestions would be appreciated


EDIT: I am also up for suggestions re tablets, pens, portable scanning devices etc … I am (hopefully) getting funded to undertake the course so I will have a few spare dollars for equipment.

I have never used a tablet & a wondering if it i actually feasible to simply take notes by hand this way - or is it too imperfect a technology as yet?

Could this be done in NoteBook?

Does anyone use a portable scanner in the library for instance?

Well, i can answer some of your questions, though i don’t feel that my system is perfect. I’m doing a phd in the humanities and started off my first semester with a new 12 inch Powerbook. I type MUCH faster than i write (and more legibly) so I began taking all class notes in Word notebook format. (IN retrospect, this was a bad idea.)

If I were to start all over again with the software geekiness I have gained along the way, I’d get a MacBookPro (simply b/c I’m a technophile - I certainly don’t need that much computing power for my usual usage!) and run the following:

OmniOutliner Pro for notetaking (very stable, can deal with VERY long docs, keeps notes organized, searchable, can link out…etc. Also, Omni just generally kicks ass.) I now have one long OOP document for ALL my reading notes on ALL my primary texts for my doctoral exams coming up (that’s long, and htat’s a LOT of trust to place in a program, so…I really love OOP!)

Scriv for writing in (GODSEND)

Bookends for bib management (I’m still mastering this but I hate ThomsonResearchSoft SO MUCH that it’s worth putting in the time for me - I’m sick of paying out the behind for every EndNote upgrade.)

OmniFocus for project management (there’s another little freeware app called Schoolhouse that’s meant to be a student organizer - if i weren’t already entrenched in, and in love with, OmniFocus I’d start with this)

Word for export, formatting, doc sharing purposes

DevonThinkProOffice for research storage, DevonAgent for searching (this is a relatively new addition to my workflow but it’s TOTALLY AWESOME so far and I’m really glad I found it before I’m really into the diss stage)

Skim as PDF reader/annotation platform.

I don’t have a scanner that doesn’t SUCK so I don’t digitize things - I keep a filing cabinet for paper-only copies of articles etc and am buying most books in my area of specialization. I would love to get a good scanner, but I can’t afford it right now. I keep intending to implement a system of cross referencing printed media in Bookends but i haven’t gotten around to it yet - but I’d really like to digitize/OCR things and toss them into the DevonSoup in my database so that they could enter the “see also” realm.

I LOVE my workflow right now. Hope this helps!

oops - double posted.


Many thanks for your response, it was very helpful

As always, whenever I read/hear other peoples’ suggestions, there is always at least one brilliant tip - in yours it was the mention of Skim

I had never heard of it and now that I have downloaded it I cannot see how I lived without it!! I have Acrobat pro but I love this more

Thanks again

Here’s a thread from Mid 2007 that discusses several apps and methodology:

literatureandlatte.com/forum … sc&start=0

In another thread you will find a few things to consider about the usage of Skim: [url]https://forum.literatureandlatte.com/t/pdf-annotations/2792/1]

There’s a nicely-done blog – academicHack – that answers many of the questions you raise about research and work flow.
The blog also looks at using digital technology (blogs, Blackboard substitutes, and other accessible software) as classroom and instructional tools.

It’s one of my regular reads because the writer tends to shun the expensive mainstream apps (especially Microsoft’s) in favor of an open-source approach.



I use a combination of several softwares.

  1. Microsoft Office Word. This, or something that will work with Word format, is a must. I teach in a classroom, over the Internet, and via a short-circuit tv set-up that allows me to have a secondary classroom with students who are about 100 miles away. The lingua franca for all of us is Word. Students email me their assignments, and I email their graded work back to them. There’s never a glitch because we all use Word.

  2. Microsoft Office Entourage. This has been a life-saver for me. I use the project management portion of this software. It automatically brings all the files pertaining to classwork, emails, notes, and calendar together in one place. I don’t do anything. It just goes out on my hard drive, finds the stuff and brings it together for me. The university has a web site which is supposed to do this for me, but it’s really goofy acting and not at all automatic. I MUCH prefer Entourage.

  3. Scrivener. I set up a project in Scrivener for each class, then make a file for each lecture. I keep research notes for lectures, as well as a copy of the outlines for the lectures themselves here.

  4. OmniOiutliner Pro. This is a really neat software. I use it all the time to dump things into while I’m doing research, or noodling with ideas. I also prefer to print my lectures from this instead of Scrivener because the way it divides things up is easier to follow while lecturing.

  5. FileMaker Pro. I make a database in this, then I record grades and put a copy of the student’s work right in the field with the grade. This saves a lot of arguments later.

I have a copy of Bookends, but I haven’t used it much. I’m sure it’s good. But Word does fine with the light-weight footnoting I’ve been doing lately.

Hope this helps.


Hi Again!

I should add that I use Devon Think Pro all the time, for everything.

Yes. I put things into it as pdfs. I just dump things in there. Devon’s search functions are a little weak, but it usually finds what I need pretty quickly.

I put research for lectures into a folder in Devon, which is just one of many folders I have in a single, large file. I’m not very discriminating about what I put in there. If I see something I think I might use, I toss it into Devon. Then, when I’m preparing a lecture (or writing, or working on things I do with other work I do) I go to Devon and get what I need. At that point, I move it to Scrivener.

It’s really easier than it sounds. Devon is very helpful for anyone who does research of any sort.


Hi there,

I’ve learn in the last few years that a research workflow is a very personal thing. Sometimes you read someone explanation of how things work for her/him and you think it’s perfect but then when you try it, it doesn’t work for you. (Alas!)

My workflow starts with four nice app that allow me to save lots of times web browsing and saving general data on my beloved MacBook Pro:

(1) LaunchBar: It’s quicker and more stable launcher than Quicksilver and I just plain love it! I can type ‘gos’ and that immediately opens a search little window that will search my choice of terms in Google Scholar; the same for Google in general, Amazon, Wiki, etc. I want a Scrivener project, I invoke Scrivener (by typing ‘sc’), scroll down all the available projects, choose one and (voilá!) it opens.

(2) OmniWeb: One of the few browsers that has to be payed. However, the way it handles bookmarks, and the personalization of how we see different webpages, made it for me. Besides, it’s fast, fast, fast.

(3) Default Folder X and (4) Hazel: I never miss a file, because I know exactly where it’s saved. DFX allows me to have a my favorite folders on the tip of my fingers and everything is kept organized. For instance: on my thesis I keep a main folder (PHD) divided in sub-folders; one for images, one for docs (mellel, word, rtf…), one for excel files, one for my own writing backups, and the most important: the “in processâ€

Incidentally, I remember when I kept my notes written with a wordprocessor and a drawing program, at an exam, some twenty years ago. The examiners where nearly disgusted to see them: “Isn’t it better to devote all this time to studying, instead of playing with computers?”

Nice times to study, these times :slight_smile:


I find Papers extremely useful for storage of scientific PDF journal articles.

Even though I left the academy a couple years back, I’m finding this discussion really interesting, in part because I’m writing a book chock full o’ footnotes; it’ll probably be published by an academic press. However, this is starting to feel more like topic better suited to Usage Scenarios than Tech support. Should it be moved there?