Folders/ Tags for Academic Workflow

This is a question for academics, especially those in the humanities: what kind of folders or tags do you use that help you to make connections across different projects? For instance, various sources on dissertation writing suggest that one keep a folder with questions regarding one’s methodology and theoretical approach, another source suggests keeping a folder for future ideas, i.e. future research questions one stumbles on as one reads sources for whatever project one is working on or contradictory data one finds.

hi. i’m a historian. i think organizational questions like this are difficult to answer, because the research and writing process works a little differently for everyone, depending on your field, your project, your personality, etc. here are some links that might give you ideas.

personally, i tend to work in an organic fashion similar to niklas luhmann and his zettelkasten. i generally rely on plain text notes linking to one another through regular review of the zettelkasten content in order to provide connections. unfortunately, i work in japanese and chinese a lot, so the search and ai features are considerably less effective (not optimized for these languages), but even in their less effective state, they both still provide some additional connections i miss on my own.if you are working in western languages, the ai, in particular, must be really amazing.

for quick sorting of data, it is necessary to create groups, but i try not to create too many, and leave them relatively broadly defined. i tend to have a lot of groups about people (the names of historical figures appearing in my sources, names of scholars, etc.) and will link to these groups as needed from my zettelkasten. it’s also worth noting that replicating files can be a huge help – i often have biographical data in my plain text zettelkasten and then replicate that to a group for that person – that group contains web clippings, the work of other scholars, and so forth. doing this helps to keep my thoughts separate from other peoples’.

Rachel Leow’s series on using Devonthink to organise historical research is very interesting and still relevant, even though it is almost five years old at this stage: … esearch-i/

As Frobgoblin notes, how you end up organising your research and ideas is really a personal choice. I prefer to use Devonthink to store and organise empirical research, while using Evernote and Scrivener as tools for compiling thoughts and ideas. Devonthink and Scrivener play very nicely together.

I agree that Rachel Leow’s series is a very good read but Devonthink has also moved on a lot from the time of the series and a lot of things she does manually in her post can be done much more efficiently. This post might provide some ideas : [url]Annotation Pane (Annotation with Links, Notes, Tags v3)]

Like Christopher I am a big proponent of regular review of one’s notes and the use of replicants. Working from either the tag view or a chronology view of annotations and source documents I replicate the documents into a folder structure akin to a table of contents for what I am writing. That way the relevant passages of my source material are already structured into the topics I am likely to be writing about. I also like to write up scraps of material as I go along which I similarly dump into the table of contents structure. Invariably I find by the time it comes to writing I already have substantially pieces of drafts and links to material which makes the hard work of actually turning out the finished product easier.


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I am a medical researcher and tend to rely on hierarchal tags to help me organise my data (e.g. Disease->COPD) . I collect all of my reference material in one indexed folder. I organise my reference data into in groups corresponding to author name. I index the same folder in Bookends (my citation software of choice). I rely on DevonThinks AI engine to make links between articles. When I start writing a paper I will use outlining software (either TinderBox or OmniOutliner) to link back to the original DevonThink link. I use an Alfred script that I wrote, to access the paper in DevonThink that I am referencing, during my writing stage.

Just came across this old thread and was curious to hear, Frogoblin, how you’ve implemented a Luhmannesque zettelkasten system in DT?