When I’m doing research, I go to great lengths to find the information I need (most recently, I ended up on some very sketchy websites trying to find Soviet-era Russian newspaper archives). I’ve honed my skills to be a mixed-methods researcher, which means that I take both a quantitative (numbers, stats) and qualitative (words, people) approach to the studies I create and conduct. When it comes to literary research, I take a similar approach, using a mix of cutting-edge information technology and tried-and-true print materials.
I thought it’d be fun to share the tools I love most for research. Keep in mind that these aren’t research databases (that will come in another post!); these are just things that help me with my research process, which I’ll also write about in detail soon.
Mendeley is a web app that helps researchers organize and annotate sources. I can’t speak highly enough about Mendeley; I use it for every project I work on. Store PDFs and files, and tag them or organize them via category. Their library is a nice, simple, searchable archive if you’re looking for some additional sources to add to your study or paper (funny enough, this is how I found some of the primary sources I used for my Master’s thesis). There’s also a social component where you can connect with other researchers in your field.
This is where my mixed-methods preferences come in. While I rely heavily on digital tools, I find that having a notebook is extremely helpful at any stage of the research process. I’m a fan girl for Word. Notebooks. Like Field Notes, they are small, so I always keep one in my purse in case inspiration strikes (nothing sucks more than being stuck somewhere without something to write in!). I love the design and the feel of these notebooks. At the start of a project, I write down my goals, and I look at them again toward the end to see if I met those goals. I also track my time spent on various sources/archives, effective search terms, and annotations.
Cloud services are a must for any writer or researcher. I use both Evernote and Google Docs; Evernote is great for basic outlining, and I like Google Docs for writing longer pieces or working on projects. The UI of both is clean and straightforward, and it’s easy to organize documents into folders. You can also add Google Docs and images straight into Evernote.
Pocket is a great way to bookmark articles, pictures, etc. that I find anywhere on the web. I can add tags to each thing I bookmark to easily organize them by topic or project. I use this instead of adding articles to my bookmark bar in my browser, as that can very quickly get overcrowded. Organization is key for a researcher, so I love tools that make it easy to stay organized!