Monday, June 11, 2012

Using Evernote to organize article writing

Having begun developing research and writing habits in the pre-digital age, I find myself often facing piles of paper that include research interviews and fieldwork notes, hard copies of scholarly articles, dozens of yellow legal pads containing handwritten notes on articles and writing ideas and printouts of outlines and manuscript drafts.  I was thus keen on trying the iPad as an organizing device to see a writing project through from start to finish.   What I learn from this summer’s experience will be replicated in my spring EAS thesis course for students to model.  My plan that semester is to write an article alongside the students, building upon what I learn this summer about using the ipad as an organizational tool.   

I started by trying to find an app that would pretty much do everything.  I spent several long days reviewing multiple apps – thinking that there was going to be some magic app that did everything I needed and getting frustrated when something sounded good and then couldn’t handle all my various demands.  Never found one.  Got excited by something called Devonthink that promises to do everything, but turns out it only does everything on a desk top, the ipad version is limited and in the words of their IT help, totally insufficient for what I wanted it to do which is store all of the data I need for writing a paper, allow me to keep notes with readings, annotate outlines, tally things I need to do, file the readings.

So finally, after spending far too much time reviewing other users’ comments on scads of different apps, I decided to begin with a program called Evernote, try that for a while, and see what comes next, rather than trying to solve all my organizational problems at once.  As you can see from Lydia’s recent post, it’s a pretty decent app for the beginning stages of article writing.

The article I’m test-driving on the ipad concerns “Tank Man.” Tank man is the nickname of the young man who stood in front and stopped the progression of Chinese tanks as the PLA attempted to remove protestors from Tiananmen Square in June, 1989. I’m looking specifically at how Tank Man is used in the US to serve certain American political ends.  So, first thing I needed was to find and store all the visual images about Tank Man.  Evernote has “notebooks” within which you create “pages.”  One of my notebooks is solely devoted to Tank Man images – I found that you can either send an email to your Evernote email address, tag it with the appropriate notebook name, and your note/link magically appears in the notebook.  Or you can be on a web page and send it directly to Evernote – the first page, not just the URL.  Another of my notebooks is readings.  All the notes in this notebook are pdfs and then algonside the pdf I keep my notes, all on the same page.  Cool.  I have different notebooks for things like theories of collective memory, discussions of iconic images, discussions of Tank Man in the press.  I also have a separate notebook that has random ideas about the paper, things to explore, dead ends, and my abstract.  Now to get writing.

P.s. I’m writing this blog on my laptop.  I still haven’t mastered typing onto the keyboard with complete skill, although it’s getting better.  Haven’t yet bought a stylus so that I can do it by hand either.  Next month.

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