To keep al my notes of a project organized, I use a notebooks for my research. For my PhD, I used a binder with different tabs. Over time, I stopped using the chunky binder(s), as these are difficult to travel with, and switched to loose pages, held together with a piece of paper folded in two. I still use this simple method of loose leafs of paper for certain types of notes, as well as for keeping exam solutions together.
However, to keep track of all notes of one research project, I’ve started to use a single notebook per project. I use simple A4 notebooks, of the cheap kind that I buy in a stationary store. In these notebooks, I keep all relevant information for a project:
- Meeting notes form project initiation: I will typically take some notes during the exploration stage of a project, when the funding is for example not confirmed yet. If it turns out the project does not go through, I may just photograph those notes and add them to Endnote. Otherwise, I stuff the in the front of the notebook.
- Printed versions of important papers:. When I do reading for a project, I typically read digitally. Only very important papers, that I want to peruse completely, I print out. I will typically add some calculations and thoughts in the sideline for reference.
- Index. Just as for a bullet journal, I number my pages and use an index. Sometimes, I will set up a more elaborate index at the beginning of the project, with different categories already set up in the notebook, such as meeting notes, comments on literature review, data collection, data analysis, notes to reports/papers, planning.
- Calculations: More than anything, I like to keep all my calculations together. While I program a lot of my data analysis steps, I still like to carry out some calculations by hand, to flesh out ideas, to sketch, to do some first trial calculations, to write out and derive equations, and to verify my code.
- Printed relevant information: When I process data, I like to print out relevant photographs and graphs of the post-processed data for my reference. I stick these into my notebook as loose leafs.
- Reflections: I usually write a few sentences at the end of the day on what I did, what I observed, and what I am going to do next.
- To Do lists. Towards the end of a project, I like to write brief overviews of what I still need to do, which sections of the report I need to write out, and how I will plan it.
- Planning: Usually, I keep te last few pages to have the overall overview of the different steps of the process and estimated periods of time for this.
If you want to see all photographs associated with this method, head over to my Instagram story.
Which method do you use for keeping track of your research notes?