Social science researchers of Metafilter, help me!
December 1, 2018 1:45 AM   Subscribe

I am writing a masters thesis. I don't know how to manage all my reading. Please give me your pro tips.

I'm doing a website text analysis project.
I'm using EndNote for referencing.

My problem is that I have a gazillion tabs open in my browser at any one time and I worry about shutting my browser because I kinda remember stuff visually - so like I remember article about Blah is on the tab with the yellow logo or that that bunch of blue tabs on the far right are from links I clicked on the article about Bler. Eventually I go through each tab and export citations for what I want to keep. Before that, I tend to start a new window each day / each session, it helps me group things, I tend to remember which things I read together that session.

If EndNote is my best friend, can you point me to good youtube tutorials or something to help me use it better? This is my first time using it and I've only been using it for a few weeks. So far all I'm doing is importing citations and put them in groups. I wish from my All References list I could colour code to match my groups. Can I? Tell me how. And can I click on an article and make it take me to its location online? Or do I need to upload the pdfs for everything?

I'm using EndNote only because my supervisor likes it. I have no feelings about it or any other citation manager since I've never used any others. I would like to not change at this point because I don't want another new thing to learn.

What do you do to stay organised and sane?

My course is a one year research masters that becomes the basis of a 3 year PhD program when I pass this first year. I have a 20k word thesis to hand in in a few months and I'm struggling so much I can't imagine how I will manage a 100k word project......

Help me thank you!
posted by stellathon to Education (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I’m not an EndNote user so I can only address part of your problem, the tabs. Use a browser extension like One Tab (there are others) to aggregate all your open tabs. Then at least you won’t be afraid to close them, they’ll always be available.
posted by OrangeVelour at 3:26 AM on December 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've dabbled in Endnote a while ago- mostly for citations at the end of papers. My friend who did her PHD and I were talking one day, and I was 'meh' about EndNote- and she explained her process and how you can turbocharge your EndNote- everything she read got put into EndNote, and then when she was looking for stuff she was able to search EndNote for it. EndNote is apparently the bomb for big research papers, she told me. Basically she put stuff in EndNote before she began writing, which was really different to my "I guess I need a bibliography now" undergraduate usage. With big projects with multiple papers, she just keeps on referring to useful stuff in EndNote.

Summarise stuff with keywords so that you can find your tabs again, maybe?

Good luck with everything!
posted by freethefeet at 3:33 AM on December 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not sure if this is the kind of thing you're looking for, but here's a suggestion:

I use OneTab, an extension for Chrome and Firefox, for managing open tabs. One click sends all open tabs to the OneTab database, and clears them from your current browser session. The tabs you've saved to OneTab display in their original groups (including the favicon). The grouping feature is probably my favorite part, because I too remember where things are by where it was in relation to other things I was looking at.

You can also export the URLs from OneTab into plain text, which can then be pasted into another tool (I've used Excel) for sorting or to add notes, etc.

I originally started using OneTab as a way to manage Chrome's memory usage, but now I use it more as an easy way to save things to look at later.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:35 AM on December 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I can't remember if I used EndNote but I did have an old-fashioned annotated bibliography that I built as I did my pre-writing research. (It was actually a requirement for my pre-thesis seminar for my first Master's.) Like ftf says above, that let me just search my bibliography for references by what they were about.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:45 AM on December 1, 2018

I have not used this myself, but I came across this tool for dealing with tons of open tabs in Poynter’s email newsletter of digital tools for journalists.

“TOP TOOLS FOR 2018: From now until the end of the year, I’m sharing my top 10 tools from 2018 in this newsletter. No. 6 is Toby, a bookmark manager that I didn’t know I needed so badly. It’s fair to say that Toby has vastly improved my average workday this year. A master of excess, I used to have dozens of browser tabs open across three browsers in multiple windows. Now I just drop all of my links into collections with two clicks and access them when I need them. The only issue with Toby is that it’s only available for Chrome. Start.Me is a similar tool for other browsers.”
posted by forkisbetter at 8:53 AM on December 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm working on my dissertation and have many papers from different subfields to keep track of. I never use tabs to keep track of what I want to read.

My reading list is like a shopping list: I can never buy read everything, so I have to prioritize.

If it's worth reading at all, it's worth taking the time to download it and give it a sensible filename in my "to-read" folder. If that's unmanageable because I have too many papers open, I have too many papers I'm planning to read. It's time to read the abstracts and pick the ones that really seem like they might be important for my dissertation, not just the ones that seem like it would be kind of nice to know.

If it's a paper I know I must read and will read, it's worth taking the time of also entering it into Zotero with a "to-read" tag and some keywords that will make it easier to find.

Then when it's time to read, I go to the Zotero list of papers to read first. This keeps me focused on the reading that's really important, instead of a HUGE UNORGANIZED LIST OF THINGS.

After I read a paper, if it turns out to be useful like I expected to, I copy the abstract into Zotero. I also write a short note about why I found it useful for my particular project. I amend any tags. I move the paper from my to-read folder to my read folder.

That's the workflow I've hammered out over time.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:58 AM on December 1, 2018 [9 favorites]

The tabs setup sounds like a really unsustainable way to manage literature reviews. If you remember things by day, start a daily or weekly library folder and IMMEDIATELY SAVE PDFS that you would leave as a tab into those files. Then you won't risk losing interesting articles if you accidentally x out of something. I save articles in the format First Author Year Title. If I read an article, I upload it into my citation manager (I use zotero). When I'm feeling fiddly, I'll move articles from To Read to Read folders, but often I just have articles organized by when I downloaded them with the full title. If I've read them, I can find them in Zotero. If I've downloaded them and I know approximately when, I can find them in my library folders.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:17 AM on December 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

This is probably too sloppy and primitive, but I harvest my tabs by making a Word doc with an abbreviation of the title, a brief (sometimes too brief) note about why I want to keep the page, and (if it's a PDF) a note about whether I downloaded it. I then footnote this line and paste the URL into the footnote. This has been working for me, though I should make more detailed notes about the utility. (The downloads go into subject folders.)
posted by Francolin at 9:58 AM on December 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

EndNote has a function where it can try to find the full text of the reference you're looking at. I believe it's References->Find Full Text, but I don't have a copy of the software on this computer to double-check. That will try to find a PDF and attach it to the record. You can then annotate that version of the pdf (or highlight or whatever) and have those notes always handy in EndNote.

The other thing I'd suggest is using the notes field to add comments about the things you're reading. You can then search those notes later.
posted by kbuxton at 11:04 AM on December 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

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