Revamping my research log, began with considering all different sorts of logs. At first, I looked at the Excel spreadsheet Thomas MacEntee shared, here. It is a great design, and provides a lot of useful information. In particular, given that it’s Excel, the data can be sorted in any number of ways. I like that I can sort it by repository, or proof point.
The keys to being faithful to a log, at least for me, are accessibility and ease of use. And, while I use Excel for a good many things, I am much more comfortable with Word. Having abandoned my genealogy software some time ago, the majority of my research is now stored in Word documents, and I’ve come to rely on Word’s features to stay focused and on track. Whether working online or onsite at a repository, research can move rapidly in one direction or another, and the record keeping can quickly get out of hand. If online on my laptop, I find I work most efficiently when I have a window for my document, and one (or a dozen) windows open on various websites. When onsite, I find it simplest to either type my findings right into my Word document, or take handwritten notes which I type into my document later. I prefer to keep everything in one place, so introducing another software application leaves me with a bad feeling of being disorganized. Plus, if I’m somewhere without my laptop, I at least always have my smartphone to take notes with. While I can manage, with difficulty, to edit a Word document in Android, Excel spreadsheets are even more unwieldy and difficult to navigate through.
At first, I thought the simplest thing would be to just use the Research Notes section of my Research Report Word template, which is in an outline form and looks something like this:
Research Notes 1. First source examined, in full reference note format a. Detailed findings 1- could be notes, an extract, abstract, or transcription b. Detailed findings 2, etc. i. My comments on source, conflicts, or discussion points. 1. Second source examined, etc.
This works really well in a research report, but as a reference tool, it’s a bit bulky and isn’t as easy to sort and search through as a table would be.
Evernote, on the other hand, is my goto app for pretty much of my life, and it lends itself perfectly to log keeping. I decided to create a template, which I first laid out in Word, and then copied into a note.
I already use Evernote for my research: I save photos of original documents taken on my smartphone to Evernote; I keep to-do lists for family names and repository check-lists; I create notes by forwarding emails with research information to my Evernote email address; and, I use the Evernote Web Clipper to instantly capture online data and digital images. Regardless of how I created it, every research note includes the SURNAME of the research subject in its title. I also use myriad tags to facilitate searching, and because Evernote indexes all the text, I can quickly find whatever I need with just a few keystrokes.
The Evernote table is structured so that the text wraps, so I can add as much information into each field as I need, without it expanding beyond the width of letter paper, because I do find it helpful to print my research notes when I’m analyzing and correlating evidence. Also, it makes it easier to copy and paste the table back into a Word document. The Evernote Desktop application makes notes available offline, so if I do take my laptop into a courthouse or archive, I can key in my findings and the note with sync later when I have an internet connection. Also, of all the note taking apps for Android, Evernote is one of the simplest, most accessible way to take notes, which means if I’m somewhere without my laptop, I can still keep my notes up to date.