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Posts Tagged ‘iThoughtsHD’

I do a lot of my research planning and writing on my iPad. For example I’ll always have a to-do list on the go there, of things I want to work on, of all sorts, ranging across academic history, through genealogy, miscellaneous writing, and computer game design.

To do list on iPad

And whenever I start a new research project I will brainstorm it, again in iThoughtsHD on my iPad.

But I was struck today by some of the advantages of an old fashioned pen and paper approach, even in a digital age.

I carry a red notepad with me all the time. It’s like a Moleskine, but a fraction of the price, lovely texture, and nice to write in.

Notepad with pen

It’s compact, and easily fits in my bag that I take out with me. So it’s always there, which is more than can be said for my iPad 2, which is too big for me to carry around all the time, though it’s great for working on at home. So when today I had a few minutes in the supermarket cafe, with a cappuccino beside me, I took out my notepad and had a look.

The first thing I spotted was a set of notes I’d made on a similar occasion, but hadn’t transferred to my iPad, and had totally forgotten about! These are notes of genealogy things I want to work on soon, such as transcribing a court case for my Cavers one-name study, and digitising the many paper receipts I have from around the wedding time of my great-grandparents at Melrose in 1905. I must get on with these!

Genealogy notes in notepad

After that initial shock, the next step was to use the notepad to develop new material. I’m writing a series of articles at the moment that are a sort of crossover between historical pieces and roleplaying game ideas, and once I’ve finished my current one about Montrose I’ll want to move on to the next couple of places. One of the upcoming articles will be about Inchtuthil in Perthshire, a Roman fort. So I took the chance this afternoon to brainstorm some ideas for this. I will move this planning at some point to my iPad though, into iThoughtsHD, and then write up the piece in WriteRoom.

Inchtuthil notes in notepad

I really like working with a pen and paper notepad like this, but I must make more of an effort to transfer the notes to my iPad, to work on them in future, and not completely forget them. Of course this brings to mind the integrated Evernote/Moleskine notepads. But I don’t think I want one of those, even though I use Evernote a lot. I think I just need to be a bit more organised about opening up my notepad when I get home and have my iPad to hand, and transferring the ideas from one to the other.

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I’d been hoping to move a rather urgent paper on this month, another PhD-derived one that really needs to beat the 1st April 2013 submission deadline, otherwise I’ll have to pay dearly for it to be published due to the new UK Open Access rules. But I’ve been rather knocked out of late, and haven’t finished the transcribing I’d hoped to do. I have my own microfilm machine at home, and the relevant records on film, but haven’t been well enough of late to sit down and work through them, which is not good.

But to move things on despite all this I’ve been looking tonight at developing other parts of the paper. Some time ago I had made lots of notes in a text editor, jotting down ideas for a rough structure. But I was struggling to see beyond these, and to properly see the bigger picture. So tonight I turned these linear notes into a mind map on my iPad, using the iThoughtsHD app. This allowed me to sketch out the overall structure more dynamically, and to fill in details of the other sections, as ideas occurred to me.

Chapmen mind map in iThoughtsHD

I now have a detailed structure that I can develop, and while part 2 of the paper (the part related to the microfilm transcription) is a little on hold I can develop the other parts, particularly parts 1, 3 and 4. I can also work on a bit of part 2 that is derived directly from a section in my PhD thesis. That leaves the rest of part 2 to finish after I’m better able to do the microfilm transcribing, and likewise part 5 – the conclusions – to work on at the very end, though I have sketched out a likely structure for that already.

So my paper is underway again, not quite in the manner I’d planned at the start of this month, but it’s making forward progress. And since I am aiming to submit before a looming deadline that is a good thing. Mind mapping has proved to be very effective for me tonight. Usually I’d mind map at an earlier stage than this, but in this case I was able to take a rough very linear set of notes and turn it into a mind map to make sense of and develop the bigger structure. And that was an enormous help.

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