Best Practice for Theological Research?

I suppose that there is no one “correct” answer, but I’m looking for a bit of guidance as I am new to DTPO.

I am evaluating several new software tools to assemble an application suite to facilitate my research, writing, publication and conference speaking. At the moment I am looking at DTPO, Scrivener, MSWord and Bookends.

My research is conducted in print journals, books, online journals, dissertations and theses, unpublished manuscripts, correspondence and other programs dedicated to theological research (e.g., Logos Research Systems’ Libronix). Although most of my work is in English I also work extensively in biblical Hebrew and Greek.

My question concerns what other DTPO users have learned about the best practices for keeping research notes in DTPO and linking them to records in Bookends.

It seems counterproductive to keep individual research notes (e.g., a direct quote three sentences long from page xx of a given journal or book) in Bookends or in Scrivener. Although both of those programs will keep individual research records, I have my doubts about how useful that will be if I want to do additional writing and revisit those notes in the future. I think that DTPO’s search capabilities are far more robust than Scrivener or Bookends.

So how do other DTPO users who publish academically record research notes taken from documents?
Do you create individual notes and - where appropriate - link to Bookends or another program which is the source of the quote in question?
When quoting a document (e.g., paper, journal article, etc.) which exists in .PDF format in DTPO, how do you record and store the note?
Is it necessary to tag each note?
How do you keep track or organize your noes when you have several hundred that are all part of a book project?

I am looking for wisdom from those who know DTPO well and who have learned to make it shine.

For my dissertation, I am currently using the following tools:

  1. DTPO
  2. Sente 6
  3. Scrivener
  4. Nisus Writer Pro

I use Sente instead of Bookends. Overall, I find it an excellent tool for acquiring, organizing, reading, and annotating large numbers of journal pdf files, and for citation/bibliography production. It is definitely possible to keep your article-specific research notes in DTPO. In fact, in the DTPO action menu, you will find a template for linking notes directly to a citation in Sente or Bookends. I did try this, but in the end I decided to keep article-specific notes with the article itself - i.e. in Sente.

Scrivener is the greatest writing tool ever invented! Once I had my dissertation proposal approved, I set up the chapter/section structure in Scrivener. I then duplicated that structure into the “Research” binder. It is here that I assemble the ideas and quotes that will ultimately end up as the content in each section of the dissertation. As I am reading through an article, I will add specific quotes/ideas to whatever section of the dissertation that is most appropriate. Obviously, this does mean that those notes are pretty tied to both Scrivener, and to the one project - my dissertation. It also means that there is some duplication between the notes I keep in Sente and the notes that end up in the Scrivener “Research” binder. If you want an alternative that allows you more flexibility, you might check out these posts:

Although I can’t help you much further than that with specifics, DTPO is an amazingly flexible tool. It has so many different ways of connecting pieces of information in the database (links, tags, replicants, labels, smart groups, etc) that with a little effort, you’ll find a way to set up your notes as you want them. My main use of DTPO for my dissertation is as a repository for research sources that don’t fit easily into Sente. I also use it to keep all my “general” notes that aren’t related to a specific source. (My main use for DTPO in general is as a massive database of material related to my field - but that is a separate database from my dissertation database.)

Finally, I use Nisus Writer Pro for the final word processing. I have Word 2011, but I rarely use it. Nisus is fast, stable, and has most of the features you need for academic publishing minus the bloat of Word. It also plays nicely with Scrivener and Sente. It’s worth a look…

Here are a variety of related posts from forum threads and other sources. Some of it may be a bit dated now, but you never know what may spark an idea.

Other forum threads you may want to check out:
[url]DevonThink and (what?): Bookends, Endnote, Papers or Sente?]
[url]Sente and DevonThink Pro?]
[url]An Academic Writer's Suite- DT, BE, and Mellel]

Other sources:

Enjoy DEVONthink!! And when you have a moment, check out DEVONagent Pro. It may well help you with some of your Internet research that involves specialized theological sites.

Thanks for the reply, Frosty.

What were the factors that guided your decision to keep your research in Scrivener and Sente? I can see how both would be useful for that purpose, but what happens ten or fifteen years from now when you want to find a particular quote or bit of data & you no longer recall where you stored it?

Or will you be indexing your Sente and Scrivener files in DTPO? That seems like a useful solution - it allows you to keep your research in S & S but still have the ability to rapidly find it at a larger date, and avail yourself of DTPO’s A.I. engine.

I wish I had a good answer for that! Like you, I’m really still trying to figure out a good research workflow. When I was writing my Masters thesis, the decision to rely more on Scrivener and Sente for research note storage was pragmatic. That research was almost 100% bioethics journal articles - tonnes of them. To set up and link individual notes in DTPO to each entry in Sente seemed tedious. So I skipped it. As I read through each article, I briefly summarized it in the notes section of Sente. When I came across ideas/quotes that were applicable to a specific section of the thesis, I put them directly into the corresponding folder in the Research binder in Scrivener. That worked for the small, journal-intensive thesis. But for the dissertation, I am definitely re-thinking the whole workflow.

I would definitely prefer to keep all of my research notes in one place - DTPO. Here’s the challenge, though… As you read through research sources you would end up with a bunch of notes in DTPO all organized by source document. But when you go to write, you want those notes organized not so much by their source, but rather by the chapters/sections to which each individual note/idea actually applies. How to make that transition is not clear to me.

Some of those links I sent along do address this challenge (if I recall correctly). I think it would do me well to revisit them!

By the way, I am not sure how well DTPO does at indexing Scrivener files. You’d want to check the forum on that. And Sente… there are some scripts floating around that let you pull notes out of Sente into DTPO. For Bookends, I am less sure…