Evernote for Academics: Guest Post - Madison Pierce on Using Evernote for Research and Writing

 Madison Pierce is a PhD Candidate in New Testament at Durham University working on the Book of Hebrews. 


Before I get started, it’s important to get a confession out of the way: I was an Evernote naysayer. It’s true. About a year ago, Evernote was prescribed by my boss, and I could not get the hang of it. I had a very set way of working, and Evernote was not working for me. I gave it a second look about 5 month ago when I realized I needed a more flexible note-taking system for my PhD. Thankfully, when I returned, I realized that many of my largest issues (e.g., only one tier of filing, when I wanted at least two) had been remedied. I immediately went to work making Evernote work for me.

So here’s how I use Evernote…

Getting Material into Evernote

It is fairly common for people to house their pdfs in Evernote; I don’t. I use Evernote only for “clips”––the most pertinent information that I am fairly certain I will need for a project I have on the horizon. When developing my workflow, the most important thing to me was speed. It was important to me to be able to get information into Evernote without disrupting the flow of my reading/research too much. For this reason, I developed an “Unfiled” folder (much like Brian’s “Inbox”). My default on my phone and computer is for items to go into this folder. Then, when I open Evernote to do some work with my notes, I can quickly move things around and get them where they belong.

On my computer, I use the Evernote Helper in my menu bar of my Mac.  I clip anything from a bibliographic entry to a paragraph, but I always make sure to include the source, so I can go from these notes to a completed paper with little more than Evernote, my word processor, and reference software open.

On my phone, I take pictures with the document camera of my pertinent information (which are of a great quality). This is my using MO when I’m reading a good old-fashioned book. I keep Evernote open and reading and make clip notes of the biblio info. (A great feature in the iPhone app is the autofill for the titles of notes. It makes this really quick!)

Organizing Evernote Material

When I’m reading to start serious work on a project, I make a Notebook for it. Every notebook in my Evernote is a project. For my thesis, I have made a notebook for each chapter, and then created a Stack for the whole project.

When I’ve developed an outline for my project (usually a paper), I create tags for each section, and then I tag notes for every topic to which they might contribute. Then, when I write that section, I select the correct tag, and the only notes I see are those relevant to my current work. I love this feature because it helps me not to get overloaded with the mounds of research I’ve collected. I always research a while before writing (against the advice of many), but that’s what works for me and how Evernote contributes.

Here’s a preview from a recent paper on the Dead Sea Scrolls:


As you can see, my tags are simple but intuitive for my section headings. This paper was a little more rushed than usual but Evernote made it a snap!

Thanks Madison for this great post! I will definitely be implementing your tagging system on my next paper.

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Links to other posts in the Evernote for Academics Series