by Peggy Thomas
*This is a shout out to Kathy H. and Ellen
who recently asked about organizing research.
My husband would tell you that I’m the LAST person who should talk about organizing papers. But I think I’m the perfect one because I used to be an old-school organizer. My method was THE BOX. Each project had its own box that I kept next to my desk to hold books, notes, articles, etc. But, for the last 3 books I have used OneNote to keep track of my online research.
OneNote is a program that comes with Microsoft Office, and it is also available for Macs. (Other similar programs include Evernote and Notability.) It saves and syncs everything as I work, and makes it accessible on every device. Rather than explain how to sign up and start a notebook, I’m going to let Microsoft do it. Here is a link to short how-to videos.
OneNote has changed my life. I used to photocopy EVERYTHING. Now, I stash all that information in a OneNote notebook. Each notebook has files. (Mine are arranged as tabs along the top.) Each file has pages. (Mine are listed on the side.) For my newest mid-grade biography, Hero for the Hungry, I have a file for each phase of Norman Borlaug’s life – Childhood, School, Mexico, Nobel Peace Prize, etc. (You're curious aren't you? Who is this guy?) I’ve also got files for the bibliography, interview notes, and additional subjects, like wheat and famine, that require more background research.
When I find an article online, I cut and paste it into a page. For example, in the school file I have: a page with an image from Norman’s yearbook; another page holds a newspaper clipping about the wrestling team; and a third is a Youtube video of a 1961 interview in which Norm talks about the lecture that changed his life.
THE BEST THING EVER is that OneNote automatically adds the website’s link at the bottom of the clipping. Brilliant!! It remembers where I got the info, even when I can’t! I also like the search feature so I can find key words in any document.
OneNote does a lot more. It lets you handwrite notes, draw, record video and audio, and if you collaborate with someone, you can share notebooks. Maybe someday I’ll expand my skill set and learn its many other features, but for now, I’m just happy creating notebooks and saving paper.
(My husband is too.)
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