Operation Thesis: Organizing Research

Though I have only been in thesis hours for four months, my thesis has been a work in progress for over two years; however, now that it is “official”, I have the freedom to solely focus on the researching and writing without the worry of class work.

The other day I was sitting with my advisor going over what I have accomplished throughout the summer and where I think I am heading in the next couple of months. As she and I talked, I came to fully realize what a trial and error process these last four months have been. From taking notes, to organizing my research, to the actual process of writing- all of this has been trial and error for me and I have really come to learn a lot about the process of constructing a thesis and about myself. So based on these times of self discovery, I want to start what I guess you might call a “series” on my blog about my thesis process, “Operation Thesis”. I know, it is terrible, but I am going with it.

I guess to start off this series, I want to talk a little bit about my process in organizing all of my research, particularly my primary source materials. I have a mountain of primary sources and will be adding to that mountain in January when I head back to England for more time in the archives. But for now, I needed a way to organize what I have so far. Digitally, I have my files organized by archive. This I found was the easiest way for me is the easiest way to find primary sources when I need to print them out because I usually will not read my sources on my computer. Unless the sources are written via a typewriter, it is less complicated to understand early twentieth century cursive handwriting if I have a blown up physical copy. Plus, I am all about taking notes on my documents.

Organizing the physical, printed out documents themselves, I organize those a little bit differently. I try (and emphasis on the word “try”) to sort them by what chapter I will be using them in my thesis. This is not always the case because certain primary sources work for more than one chapter. In that case, I have been organizing by the chapter I will more than likely use it the most in.

Taking notes has been the tricky part. While I write on the printed primary source documents, I also wanted to have them (and the secondary source notes) typed up so I can easily search for anything that I might need at any given moment. I needed a system that would allow me to categorize, sort, and have tags. My first thought was simply using Microsoft Word, but it just was not working for me. Someone suggested Scrivener, but that too did not work for me. So I did some research on notetaking programs and came across Evernote. Evernote has become my lifeline in many ways. It has fit all my needs in terms of taking notes with tags, categories, and organizing the items in “notebooks” (see above). What I also really love about it is that I can not only access it through the program on my computer, but online as well. So no matter where I am, even if I do not have my personal laptop with me, I can access all of my notes and any materials I save on it. I can upload photos, documents, and so forth- and it keeps everything in one neat and tidy place.

This is my organizational process thus far. It took me some time to get myself in a comfortable position with organizing my research, but I think I have found it.

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