Thursday, September 2, 2010

Getting Organized, Getting Serious

Notorious PhD recently had a post about various note organizing programs, and her post reminded me that I need to think about this issue.

I'm starting to get into the thick of the dissertation, and I'm starting to reach critical mass with my sources. As such, I'll need to start re-organizing text as a I write (in huge ways), and I'll need to remember sources that I read two years ago. Already, I have embarrassed myself with some oversights--sources I didn't reference that I should have, sources I forgot about until after I submitted a piece of writing.

A while back, I downloaded a demo from Note Bene, but I was deterred not only by the price, but also by the learning curve involved. My thinking: "I've got to get busy on my real work! I don't have time to figure out how to work this friggity-frig program!"

I asked my PhD supervisor what she uses, but she doesn't use any special programs. She writes her books and articles the old-fashioned way--by shuffling through stacks of articles on her desk. But I do most of my work at home, and I have a smallish house that contains two children (and a husband who gets very tired of my book and paper stacks), and so I can't spread things out the way I did when I was a single gal in a master's program. So I might need to GET ORGANIZED.

I don't have a Mac; I have a PC. I've heard Zotero is good (and cheap or free, right?). And I've heard Nota Bene is good, but I found it a bit baffling when I messed with the sample for an hour or two.

So, dear readers, I'm soliciting your advice. What say you?


J. Harker said...

Yeah, I wish I had advice for you here. Having just started the research (and living in critical fear of putting pen to paper on this dreaded thing), I'd love to know how you keep all the citations organized. I really don't want to convert my house into an extension of the library for the next 18+ months, but if that's what it takes...

Brian Kay said...

What about Citation? Is that available for PCs? I remember almost buying it a couple of times during my dissertation years, and it came with rave reviews. On the other hand, I still don't really know anyone who has used it. Good job getting organized! Go dissertation!

Ambivalent Academic said...

I use EndNote. It is a HUUUUUUUUGGGGGEEE memory-suck (so don't expect, say, your browser to run at anything close to clockwork speed while EndNote is open on an older machine). However, the cite-while-you-write feature is excellent, and you can customize your citation style and bibliography, and you can move around huge chunks of text within your document, and it will keep your footnotes, citations, etc. in their appropriate locations with respect to the text even as you're shuffling. The learning curve is a little frustrating, but about a day faffing around and cursing at it, and you'll be a whiz in no time. The only ugh! thing I can really think of is that it's very convenient for sourcing from online databases, but if most of your references are in dead tree format that could get annoying to input them yourself - tres tedious. Then again, it can source from Library of Congress, so maybe not a big deal? (I don't know, I'm a scientist so all my sources come from PubMed.) The cost is not attractive, but start asking grad students you know - surely someone's got an installation disk that you can "borrow".