Evernote For Research

An inside look at my research process using Evernote as a tool to manage the articles I'll use in my paper. This method requires an Evernote Premium subscri. A must for doing research on the fly in a setting where you have no effectiv. A look at using the free program Evernote to store and manage research articles. A must for doing research on the fly.

Evernote for Research, Big Ideas, and Deep Thought

  1. Evernote is a great tool for research. Whether you’re investigating legendary treasures hidden by ancient civilizations, writing a novel, or working towards a PhD, Evernote is an invaluable tool for gathering information and keeping it all organized. Organize your research into notebooks.
  2. Using Evernote for research and writing. Evernote has a few additional features that are helpful during the research and writing phases. It has a desktop/laptop version you can download to your computer. It works like the mobile version and syncs your notes, but you.

I believe Evernote is underutilized as a tool for long-term research and big ideas. In part, this is because a lot of people don’t have a system to retrieve notes that aren’t project related with specific due dates. In this post, I will suggest a few of my strategies for when using Evernote for research and big ideas.

Notes I Don’t Want to Remember

I saw a blog post this morning where I fellow listed his seven “most practical” uses for Evernote.These included using Evernote to save recipes, gift ideas, medical information, pet information, travel ideas, and owner’s manuals.These types of notes fall into a category I call “Notes I don’t need to remember.”I call them my “Steelcase notes” because they are the notes I would otherwise save in a regular filing cabinet.It’s the notes I don’t want to commit to memory, but I know when and where to find them when I need them.That’s fine.I use Evernote to store notes I don’t want to remember all the time.

Pretty much anyone can figure out how to organize notes you don’t want to remember.Notes and tags are just categories of information just like a manila folder in a filing cabinet. So just save these notes and file them the way you would in a regular filing cabinet.And if your filing system doesn’t work out just right, it’s so easy to change it later that it doesn’t really matter if you don’t get it right the first time.

Notes I Want to Remember

But by far my largest category of notes are the notes I want to remember.There are my “Big Idea notes.” This category of notes includes everything from marketing ideas, to notes on a lecture I attended, to book highlights, to drafts of things I’m writing, and general research.These notes are notes that, if I could, I’d commit them all to memory.But since I can’t commit my 8,400 notes to memory, I need a system of reminders to put them in front of me when I need them.

How to Recall the Big Ideas with Evernote

How you handle the notes you want to remember is tricky.The problem is that it is impossible to remember all these notes, and so you have to do something to make sure these notes pop up in the right context even after you’ve forgotten them.

We developed Crusoe to solve the problem of how to recall the Big Idea Notes.You can browse the posts in this blog to find out more about Crusoe and how to use it.But since Crusoe isn’t yet available outside of iOS devices, most people need an alternative to Crusoe. Below I discuss a few tactics.

Evernote Note Links

I use both notebooks and tags, but with Big Idea notes categorizing things was never that useful for me.I never open up files in my Steelcase filing cabinet just to look through everything in the file, and neither do I ever think to do the same thing with notes and tags.

What I do think is more like this: “Show me other notes I might have that I think relate directly to the note I’m reading right now.”And note links can help with that a lot.

A note link is a hyperlink to another note in Evernote.If you click and drag the title of one note into the body of another note, that will create a note link.Just click it and Evernote will bring up the other note.If I’m reading one note and another note pops into my head, I put the respective note links in each note so that if I pull up one of those notes, I’ll be sure to see the other.Or if I think of a new idea while reading a note, I’ll capture that new idea in a separate note and then note link the two.I could just put the new idea in the same note that I’m reading, but I can think of three reasons not to do that.

Three Reasons Not to Merge Notes

  1. Long notes don’t get re-read.I try to avoid adding too much information to a single note because I’ll be less likely to re-read the note later when I’m pushed for time.Multiple notes let you build on what you know.
  2. The notes you link were saved at different times in different contexts. You lose that context when you lump research into one big note.I will typically write a quick note underneath a note link explaining why I linked the two notes (you can do the same thing more efficiently in Crusoe’s note annotations).This way it is much easier for me to recall the context behind the links.
  3. One note could matter to you for multiple reasons.When you merge all those different contexts into one note you end up with a long and meandering note.Keep things separate and use note links.

Without note links my notes are like puzzle pieces in a jigsaw puzzle box.The box is the notebook or tag, but the individual pieces or notes don’t make a lot of sense until everything is assembled.

Tags & Notebooks:

When tags first came out I used to create new ones left and right. At one point I had over 300 tags. Bad idea. I had more tags than I could possibly remember, and I’ve been deleting tags ever since.

When it comes to big idea notes, I don’t use tags much, with one exception…

Book tags: Every time I read a book I create a tag that looks like this: “Frankenstein Mary Shelly” I maintain that format every time with “[Title] [Author’s name]” and then I stack those tags in Evernote desktop under the parent tag “Library.”

As I read the book I take screenshots (if I’m reading an ebook) or photos (if I’m reading a paper book) of the pages I want to save. I put the photos in the note and then I tag it with the title and author of the book.This is a much better system than relying on the notes feature in the Amazon Kindle for the reasons explained here.

Search Terms:

So note links are ideal, but the downside they take time and diligence (unless you have Crusoe, in which case they are quick and easy).You can develop work flows to speed up the process, but it still requires a big commitment.

So that brings me to search terms.Search terms are a block of stream-of-conscious text I type in the bottom of a note.Here’s how it works.I ask myself what kind of searches I can imagine myself doing in the future to look up this note.For instance, I had an email argument about fish in restaurants with my friend Tom Donovan recently, and in the course of that argument, I found a note in Evernote to send his way. At the bottom of that note I typed: “Donovan email about fish.”I added it to another search term that was already there: “Kerrie won’t eat tilapia.”And there were a couple of others. If you find it easy to remember vulgarities as many memory experts recommend, then add them to your search terms.

Since Donovan is a friend of mine, there’s a good chance I’ll remember this email exchange.I might completely forget about this note, but it doesn’t matter.I often remember email exchanges and so I by combining a friend’s name with fish should give me a narrow enough search result.And it makes sense that if I’m thinking about that email exchange then I want to see this note again (yes, I could just search my email, but hey, this is just an example).

Shoot for uncommon search terms.

Donovan is my friend’s last name.His first name is Tom.A search on “Donovan fish” is going to give me more precise results than “Tom fish.”Likewise “Kerrie tilapia.”

Over time, that email exchange will fade from my mind. In the meantime, however, that note might prove useful in another context.Say my friend Jim blogs about food and there’s something in my note that contradicts something Jim wrote.Jim is too common a name so I might type his full name, his nickname, the name of his blog, whatever.The point is that I keep adding search terms over time in hope that the note will come up in the searches where I want to see it.

Bringing it all together

As I said at the beginning, Big Idea Notes generally don’t have due dates associated with them.Therefore, you need to populate these notes in various ways to make sure they pop up when you could use them.

Note links is my favorite technique to make sure I retrieve important notes I’d otherwise forget.Populating a note with possible search terms—terms that aren’t already in the note—is another way to make yourself stumble across important notes even after you’ve forgotten them.

The first thing I do when I start a new writing project isn’t outlining or researching.

Nope — first, I set up an Evernote folder expressly for that project.

Haven’t heard of Evernote?

Evernote Research Templates

It’s a free app that lets you collect about a half-dozen types of notes (text, screenshots, photos, voice memos and more), organizing them with tags and folders so you never lose anything. Whether you’re working on a novel, your blog, or work for clients, Evernote can shave tons of hassle and friction from your writing process.

You can access your notes three ways: through a program on your computer, through any web browser or through a smartphone app. Your notes sync across all your devices, so you always have access to everything from your grocery list to your novel notes.

Evernote For Research

I affectionately refer to Evernote as my “exobrain.”

One reason I love Evernote is because it’s so adaptable to anyone’s writing process.


Here’s a quick Evernote guide with five ways I use it for every writing project.

1. Collect research

From learning about flintlock pistols for your steampunk zombie novel to tracking down statistics for an article on immigration, writing requires research.

This is what Evernote was born for.

Whenever you come across internet research pertinent to your project, you can save it directly into a project folder in Evernote with the web clipper extension for your browser. Photos, articles, bookmarks and even screenshots all sync into the program without having to leave your browser.

Evernote even has a feature on the smartphone app that allows you to quickly snap photos — of the cover of a book you want to read later, scenery that’s perfect for world building, you name it.

Need to capture written text? The “page camera” feature is optimized for handwriting or typed content.

2. Gather your thoughts and find inspiration

When you’re a writer, the world’s fair game, right?

We take inspiration where we can get it — and Evernote is perfect for quickly capturing ideas and epiphanies in the moment.

I used to jot down interesting ideas I didn’t know what to do with on scraps of paper and throw them in an ideas file folder. Odd character quirks, overheard scraps of dialogue, photographs of fascinating places, and ideas for stories I wanted to pitch to magazines all lived in a chaotic, unsearchable mess.

As often as not, though, those little scraps of paper also ended up going through the wash or getting tossed out by accident.

Now, I write them directly into Evernote in an inspiration file that I can visit whenever I’m looking for a little creative boost. Plus, it’s searchable, and I can tag ideas with things like “character” or “article” so I can easily find the right category later.

You can even leave yourself a voice memo if you don’t have time to type.

3. Work on the go

Stop logging onto social media to kill time, and start using Evernote instead to write a few hundred words on your latest project.

While some writers enjoy drafting in Evernote, I prefer typing up scenes and then pasting them into my Scrivener file when I’m back at my laptop. Evernote isn’t bad to write full drafts in, though — it has most of the same features you would find in a dedicated word processor, including fonts, alignments and styles.

You can also fill those spare minutes by reading through some of the research articles you may have clipped from the web, saving to read later.

4. Organize your edits

If you’re working on a larger project — whether that’s a novel, memoir or feature article — there are a lot of balls to juggle. Particularly when it comes to the editing stage.

I tend to use Evernote a lot during the editing process, creating checklists for myself of problems I need to fix, or continuity issues I need to watch out for. This lets me jot down any thoughts I have (like the need to check the color of a character’s eyes, or add references to an event earlier in the story) without breaking my writing workflow.

Evernote For Research

When I get ready to do an editing pass, I categorize all of those tasks, then check them off the list as I fix them. Adobe lightroom cc 2020 isoriver free.

5. Collaborate with others

If your writing requires any sort of collaboration, Evernote makes it easy to share what you’re working on.

Along with the ability to share notes and folders, Evernote also offers a dressed-down chat platform that allows you to converse about what you’re working on.

Then, instead of looking through your email, text messages, or Slack to find out what conversations you had about a certain subject, they’re all saved (and searchable) in your Evernote.

Have you tried Evernote to streamline your writing process? What are your favorite tips and tricks?

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