I’m an academic historian trying to decide whether to make the switch from paper index cards to a computer-based note card system (ie, Scrivener). For my last two books, I’ve taken many of my initial notes in word (or scanned documents into pdf files). I can do some organizing in word for shorter essays, but for entire books, I still find that printing my paragraphs, quotes, and ideas out onto paper and then taping them onto index cards works the best for big picture reorganization. (Soon I have walls, desks, floors, all covered with index cards, that are keyed with bright colors of highlighters by topic, etc. You get the idea). Having massive surface areas where I can move physical cards around seems to have been a key element of my thinking since my high school history teacher taught us this method way back in the dark ages. Physically manipulating the cards has always led to insights that I didn’t have until I started rearranging cards in real space.
But I’m really sick of printing out, then cutting and pasting, then taping onto cards, then retyping text back into a word processing program (or hiring someone to retype), etc etc. Now that I have another book deadline coming up, and thousands upon thousands of notes scattered in hundreds of files on my computer–I’m considering moving to Scrivener for note card organization, instead of dumping them all out onto physical cards I can shuffle.
Have any professional historians (or other academic writers) on this forum really abandoned the physical note card method we were all taught, and found electronic note cards to work for them? The corkboard function in Scrivener seems like it would work–but my screen is only 17" large, so it’s hard to imagine it facilitate thought the way large spaces seem to do.
I’m hoping for feedback from other academics who have used scrivener, successfully or unsuccessfully, for working with large masses of quotes, notes, ideas, images, etc.
(Of course, my husband wonders if my sudden interest in scrivener is just a way of avoiding that looming deadline.)