Organised Chaos

In theory, referencing software sounds like the best time-saver in the world. I attended a ‘Digital Tools’ workshop last year and saw a brief overview of what software like Zotero and Endnote could do, and although I prefer to write everything by hand, I decided I would try and make my life a little easier by letting the computer do it for me.

I started with endnote and quickly realised I would need some help with learning how to use it. So, instead I remembered I had briefly been shown how to use Zotero and I liked the browser integration element. However, once I had followed the initial steps to download the software, I quickly realised how complex this type of software is. As I said, I have always preferred to handwrite everything, I would even prefer to do my thesis by hand, which in Freud’s opinion would probably make me a sadomasochist. There is something about holding a pen in front of a blank piece of paper and creating something that will never feel the same on a digital medium. It’s too temporary, too easy to delete and lose everything you have made.

Alas, I don’t have the rest of eternity to do my Ph.D. and I will have to take some shortcuts as a result. Next semester I think I will request some help with Zotero as I still think it is the software that would work best for me and the thought of collating all of my bibliographies at the end of the three years sparks a little shiver of terror.

I realise that I have been very cynical about the benefits of using digital tools and social media to enhance my experience as a researcher and it probably has something to do with my OCD tendencies. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to discuss these kind of issues, but I think it is important as I know many researchers suffer from the same problems. For as long as I can remember I have colour coded, labelled, archived and organised my research.


As you can see from the image, I have a very particular way of working and this is only a very small portion of the notes I have made. Varying from this method would be extraordinarily difficult for me, and if I did switch to digital referencing software, it is highly likely I would make notes and handwritten bibliographies alongside it.

I’m working on it though!

I am not very familiar with copyright law and I know it will become important as I get closer to finishing my thesis. I think it would be a good idea to copyright my blog if I ever want to share my research ideas or experiences, but I think I need to read a bit more about it before I do it.

More soon.


5 thoughts on “Organised Chaos

  1. I didn’t have the luxury of reference managment software during my PhD so did it all by hand which no one wants to have to do if there is a choice. During my post-doc there was endnote and my life got much easier but I still kept my notes on each paper in my handwriting in ringbinders using the system I used during my PhD I just then added the reference to endnote for the cite while you write function and the reference lists. Just find what works for you.


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