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Notebooks for Academic Writing
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08 Notebooks for Academic Writing
Scholarly writing requires persistent, deep thought, and patience. To make a meaningful contribution in a particular field, the contributions of others often have to be synthesized so that new ideas can be placed in a meaningful context. An Evernote notebook can be used to structure a "writing in pieces" approach to developing an academic paper. Greg Clinton,
The Wandering Academic
, explores this process in detail. You should start by reading his instructions!
This process can be extended to address larger writing tasks such as academic articles. The essentials remain the same: Create a separate Evernote notebook for each manuscript allows you to have access to your work on all your various computing devices. Use notes for small sections of the paper as well as for quotes and "note cards." This process is represented below:
The "Writing in Pieces" Process
In addition to the actual content of the paper, pages can be created to support the process such as progress charts, reference lists, and any other structure that helps you be productive. Additional notes hold "note cards" consisting of notes from your PKB can be copied or moved into the manuscript notebook. Notes can be titled strategically to keep the different parts of the project organized around your writing. Sharing a writing notebook allows collaboration.
Copying Notes to a Project Shell
If you had to create a large number of notes that were not directly related to writing your paper before you could start your project, then it would hardly be worth the effort. Instead, you should create a master notebook where you have notes that can serve as a starter set, or "shell,' for the type of writing that you do and then reuse these masters whenever you begin a new article, chapter, etc. . Once you have this master notebook, you begin a new project by copying its notes (or a desired subset) into a new project notebook. An example of a master notebook for academic writing is linked at the bottom of this page.
Evernote does not allow you to copy a whole notebook, but the process of copying selected notes from one notebook to another is illustrated below:
Copying Notes from Master to Create Project Shell
Organizing the Notebook
If you organize your work, you will be more productive and feel less hassled. To facilitate your writing project, I suggest that you think of arranging the notes related to your project in a notebook with three "sections:" Frontmatter, Draft Section Notes, and Notecards.
While Evernote allows you to gather a set of notes into a "notebook," it does not allow you to order them manually at this time. Instead, you can use punctuation characters at the beginning of each note's title to determine its arrangement in your notebook. The way you organize your work is of course highly personal, but a system of naming conventions to bring about the 3-section arrangement described above is illustrated in the table below:
The figure below illustrates how a manuscript notebook using the system above ends up being arranged:
Researching and Synthesizing Resources
You can use one or many notes to write your manuscript's sections. A note per section will allow you to gather your search around each point you're trying to make . The figure below shows both notes created for each section of an academic article as well as a template for a note for one chunk of writing:
Putting the Pieces Together
After each section of your article is complete, it is time to sew the pieces together into a single document. This is can done in a separate note or directly into a word processor by going down the ordered list of section notes, copying the appropriate text in each note and then pasting it into the document file. Once the text is in place, tables and figures can be inserted as well. Finally, the bibliography should be built. If you included in each section note its relevant citations, these can also be pasted. Personally, I just use Zotero to build the citations and bibliography automatically after everything else is in place.
An Academic Manuscript Shell in Evernote -
This notebook contains pages that can serve as templates for the elements of an academic manuscript. This particular notebook is set up for an article describing an educational research study, but its pages can be copied and adapted to customize the notebook for your own writing needs.
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