How do you organize your research?

I have research at various levels spread all over the place. I’ve got papers that I’ve read and jotted notes on in my apartment and on my desk on campus. I have results from past experiences spread across two desks in my lab. I have a multitude of folders on my laptop that contain various pieces of research. As well as other documents stored on my university account and various hard drive backups.

At one point, I made a folder called Masters and attempted to move all the research from my masters into it as well as work from courses I took during that time. I also made a folder called PhD to contain my current work. However, since I’ve been a PhD student, I’ve used some of my Masters work to write a paper and make a poster for a conference. Which raises the question, should these fall under PhD or Masters? Because, really, they belong in both.

I also have a series of notebooks I’ve used over the years to jot down notes, and try to keep track of lists and tasks and ideas. Of course, I’ve never used these notebooks consistently enough, so the information in them is very disjointed and difficult to refer to. And don’t forget the random papers all over the place with similar information.

I have a collection of papers from meetings with my supervisor where we discuss and idea/topic or whatever. Some of these can be easily referred to, as they make sense. Others are so disjointed that unless you can remember the whole circumstances around when they were written and what else was going on, they make very little to absolutely no sense at all.

I’m not sure what the correct solution is here. But I am sure that it’s going to be different for everyone. I know some people who write most of their papers using a system of version control like SVN or CVS. This way they can easily find various earlier versions if they need to resubmit the paper to a different conference.

Personally, my current “new” solution is to test out a wiki. My university has moved to Google Apps, so I can have a private wiki hosted for free there. I can store files, notes, and pictures. And, I can limit the access to only people I invite. As I’m in the process of getting ready to do an experiment, I figure now is a good time to check it out and see how well it works. At the very least, it’s not going to make my solution any worse than it already is, and has a possibility of improving it.


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