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I'm looking for software that will help me write my undergraduate thesis.
February 7, 2006 4:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for software that will help me write my undergraduate thesis.

I'm writing an undergraduate thesis consisting of a translation of a number of short stories. I'm currently in the preliminary stages, wherein I'm reading books of stories in order to determine which ones I'll eventually translate.

What I'm looking for is a piece of software that will allow me to jot down citations and tag fragments (for example, note the title of a story and then tag it with some themes) so that when I'm going back through to find possible themes, I can easily see which stories fit what.

TiddlyWiki doesn't quite suit my needs, and I've got a PC. Most of the software that I've found that fits this description is for Macs, so I'm out of luck so far.

Also, any other types of software useful for writing a thesis (citing, documenting, et cetera) would be welcome.
posted by anjamu to Education (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
The simplest solution may be good.

Store everything as a text file that you write down. When you tag things do something like [TAG : X Y Z T ] then use Windows search in files to search a directory for things like [TAG: * Y * ] and you'll get the files listed.

For writing my thesis I used Latex, but wouldn't recommend it for someone who isn't used to coding etc. But if you are, it's grand. Do check out Open Office 2 if you're considerin Word. It really is very, very good.
posted by sien at 4:23 PM on February 7, 2006


Have you tried Endnote? It's the de facto standard for academic citation (at least UG). It creates a database of citations, and then manages the cites in your word documents. Check out the website, then ask your school librarian if they have a license or if you can use it on a school computer.
posted by subtle-t at 4:23 PM on February 7, 2006


Also not quite an answer to your question, but d'you know about Word's "track changes" ability?
posted by soviet sleepover at 4:26 PM on February 7, 2006


Microsoft OneNote will do all this and more. In terms of tagging, you'd have to use icons rather than text, but there are a lot and you can define them however you want.
posted by tiamat at 4:45 PM on February 7, 2006


The cheap answer is text files and grep or other file search tool.

If you are going to do some more detailed stuff, or plan on doing this kind of research in the future, it might be worthwhile to look at NU*DIST or NVivo by QSR. Your college might have a license for it, but you really should try it before you buy. It's overkill for some things and doesn't work for some types of data.

Another option to consider if you want your data nicely formatted is the annotation and OCR features of Acrobat Professional. I can use it to scan most texts that are not already available in electronic form, and create searchable indexes.

I have gripes with just about every software used for writing. MSWord is the expected standard, but the track changes functions are so buggy as to be badly broken for all but the most simple documents. OpenOffice.org has a bibliographic citation system that can't handle styles like APA, and problematic Endnote support. (Thomson killed RTF support for one version.) LaTeX has the best bibliographic support, but a nasty learning curve if you want to move beyond the basic document classes. Also, the LaTeX->Word conversion is a pain, especially if you are using something than requires custom bibliographic classes like APA.

Freemind is a nice bit of software for prewriting and outlining.

I don't know how people do productive work without something like cvs or subversion. Track changes in Word is a nice feature when it isn't completely fucking up, but you also want to track changes over the entire project. It gives you a nice way to avoid having to say, "oops, I didn't mean to delete that file."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:21 PM on February 7, 2006


To expand on Acrobat Professional, just about everything I read is either downloaded or scanned into PDF form. If it is not already searchable, I try an OCR on it in Acrobat. Certainly you can also use Scansoft to do the same thing, Acrobat just happened to come with CS though.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:32 PM on February 7, 2006


I have gripes with just about every software used for writing.

Sounds like my problem. I'm picky, and it seems as if no program has quite what I want.

Moreover, I'm living a half-analog life: all of the books I'm using are just that - books. I can scan into PDF, but it takes up a substantial amount of time. Maybe I should be doing it anyways, I don't know.

I don't know that much about tracking changes in Word, which seems to be something I should look into. Tutorial advice (for Word or OpenOffice's equivalent)?
posted by anjamu at 5:42 PM on February 7, 2006


filemaker pro does exactly what you describe
posted by markovitch at 6:30 PM on February 7, 2006


You could always come up with your own XML schema, or you could whip up a little database in Acess or something one table for fragments, and another table for 'tags' where each tag has a name and points back to a particular fragment.

Depends on how comfortable you are with your building your own solutions.
posted by delmoi at 6:39 PM on February 7, 2006


Depends on how comfortable you are with your building your own solutions.

*wince* Not very.
posted by anjamu at 6:42 PM on February 7, 2006


I've been on a quest similar to yours in the past few months and I've played around with all sorts of potential solutions that really didn't pan out well for me for many of the reasons mentioned already by others and then some.

Some flavour of wiki seemed like a good solution for storing and sorting my notes, but in the end I've found that the free version of EverNote is the most convenient for me and it handles tagging (via multiple custom categories) and searching very well.

EverNote's category system also helps with outlining, although it's not as useful as it could be for this. For referencing, I try to format references in my notes so that I can paste them directly from EverNote into Endnote. Then I can pull them straight into Word when I need them.
posted by harmless at 6:47 PM on February 7, 2006


I'd suggest you take a look at Framemaker. It can do cross-references (automatically update text from other sources in the document), tag sentences quite easily, etc. I don't know how it is for something like APA, but I've found it very easy to get the text into whatever format I want it in.

It doesn't "natively" support bibliographic formatting, but see http://www.daube.ch/docu/files/bibliography.pdf for ways to do it.
posted by devilsbrigade at 8:14 PM on February 7, 2006


Not sure if this is what you're looking for but this thread "How to implement Getting Things Done for University Students" might help.
posted by invisible ink at 10:07 PM on February 7, 2006


Take a look at Keynote as well.
posted by dhruva at 11:09 PM on February 7, 2006


I'm going to second Keynote as well. It's free, small, and simple. (I keep a version on a USB stick and have tons of notes about future writing projects on it.) It is similar in concept to Evernote, but without the slick graphics.

When you said you wanted to tag a title for example, I wasn't sure if Keynote did this, so I did a search through all of my notes for a random word... "family" and Keynote showed me all 25 different places I used the word in that Keynote file.

It supports html links, and also let's you eventually export your notes to a .txt or .rtf file, which Word can open.
posted by jerryg99 at 5:36 AM on February 8, 2006


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