How do you develop your workflow between Scrivener, Papers , Sente and the iPad apps and Ponies Notebook? It seems that you are using a dozen tools to do your task and somehow confusing to develop a smooth workflow.
Dellu has hit the nail on the head here. I think the past year, since I switched to mac, has indeed been a search for that ‘smooth workflow’, and I’ve made a lot (a lot!…) of detours in that process. Some of the detours come from wanting to test out different apps before I decide between them, other detours are more about exploring how different apps can be used in conjunction with each other. Some of the apps I’m not using actively, I’ve still mentioned on this blog (such as Papers, PDF Expert, GoodReader or 7NotesHD), because I think they are high quality apps that others may benefit from.
I’m still not fully at the 100% ‘smooth workflow’ mark, but I think I am a lot closer now than I was, say, six months ago. So, in this post, I’ll outline my current workflow for typical academic tasks. I’ll start with the disclaimer that this is still somewhat of a work in progress. If anyone has suggestions for improvement, please leave your comments!
The data analysis process
Naturally, such processes vary widely depending on what kind of data you use, and which discipline you are in. I primarily work ethnographically, where I use qualitative observation and interview data, which are captured through video and audio recordings (and to a lesser extent, written field notes). I work with sociocultural perspectives when I analyse data, which means that I draw on e.g. interaction analysis or other methods that are compatible with a social practice perspective. Hence, what I describe below may not be relevant to those working in other traditions.
My first interaction with my data (apart from converting video files, which I’m still doing on a Windows computer at work) will usually be transcribing in Inqscribe. I’ll write more on Inqscribe in a future post, but in short, it’s the most user friendly and likeable app I’ve found for this task.
When I have transcribed the data, I will typically do a number of inductively informed readings using iAnnotate. I’ve written here about how I use this app to do some initial chunking and note taking of the data.
I then typically move to Curio. Here, I might create a mind map that helps me to trace different inductively identified themes across the data material, or I might create a table where I start some initial organisation of data based on broad theoretically informed categories. Exactly how this process looks like will depend on the analytical approach I’m taking for a given writing process, but in general I find that using mind maps, tables and index cards in curio are good tools for gaining that first overview over a large data corpus. Based on this chunking, I will then often turn to more descriptive accounts, which I usually type up in Pages and then import to Curio, which acts as my ‘hub’ for writing projects (more on this in a Curio dedicated, future post). I suspect part of this process could also be well served by HyperResearch, which is on my to do list for checking out (I used it briefly several years ago, on Windows).
On Windows, I’m a fan of Videograph, but I haven’t found the mac counterpart yet. If anyone knows it, then let me know!
The writing process
Brainstorming and outlining starts in a mind map application, and continues in a dedicated outliner app. I have a post nearly written up on mind mapping which I’ll be publishing here soon. On my mac, mind mapping happens in Curio, and on the iPad, it happens in iThoughtsHD.
Once I have refined the brainstorming a bit, I will typically move to a dedicated outlining app. Exactly when this happens is a bit hard to say, but it’s often at some point where I feel that what I’m writing up is a bit more of a ‘linear’ argument than it was during the brainstorming process. On my mac, I use OmniOutliner or Curio. Doing this in Curio is very convenient in the sense that you can just convert mind maps to outlines with a couple of clicks. However, when I move from ‘visual idea generation’ to more ‘linear idea organisation’, I often create a new outline anyway. Strictly speaking, I could stick to Curio and leave OmniOutliner out of my workflow. However, it’s such a great outlining tool that I am sticking to it (more on OmniOutliner in a separate, future post). At the moment, I’m not really bothered by having both apps in the mix, but if you want to cut down on apps, staying in Curio might be a good option.
Then, when I’m ready to actually start writing, I switch to Scrivener. There, I import any literature notes, outlines, mind maps, data extracts or journal articles that I’d like to be able to view side by side with my draft writing. I sync Scrivener with Elements on my iPad, so that my drafts are always with me (I always carry my iPad) even if my mac is left at the office.
One of my small head aches over the past year has been which tool to use as a citation manager in conjunction with Scrivener. There are different options, and I’ve tried Sente, Papers, and, now, EndNote. Long story short, at the moment I’m sticking with EndNote for cite while you write functionality. In spite of how old fashioned and clunky that app has become, it’s the only one that gives me peace of mind in terms of formatting of references and bibliography, and it’s relatively easy (at least for me, because I’ve used EndNote for years) to make minor edits to a style depending on which journal you are targeting. It’s extremely rare that I ever have to edit information coming in (when importing reference information into EndNote), or information going out (when using cite while you write). When using Papers and Sente, I experienced several times that formatting didn’t quite turn out right. I should say that some of this might be down to me not being sufficiently competent with Papers or Sente, as my knowledge of how to manipulate styles in those apps are nowhere near what I could do in EndNote. However, as I was posting on online forums about this, I saw that others had had similar experiences. I think a lot of this also comes down to which discipline you are in, to what extent the stock styles of an app cover your needs, and whether you are writing a monograph where you can stick to a style of your choice throughout, or whether you are working on a lot of writing projects in parallel where each has its own citation style due to editors’ requirements.
I then stay put in Scrivener for a while, as I’m developing my text. If I have to share it for comments or review, I export it to Word or PDF using the compile feature. Then, when I’m at a stage where I’m approaching the end of the writing process, I switch to Word. This is usually triggered by being in a phase where I’m exchanging the text frequently with colleagues, and/or it’s getting ready for submission for a journal. In both cases, I use Word, partially because I work in a Windows environment, and partially because most journals in my field ask for submissions in Word format.
The literature review process
My review process starts in Sente, which I use to mark up journal articles. This is typically done on the iPad. I prefer it to the mac due to the form factor and the option for stylus input. However, quite often I will use the mac side by side with the iPad, typing up notes and summaries in Circus Ponies Notebooks, as I’ve described here.
While CPN has a very nice feature for creating links between pages, I sometimes feel the need for a less linear way of working when I explore how particular concepts or theories have been dealt with in research literature, and then I switch to mind mapping. Later, I can import the mind map either to CPN as a PDF file, or to Scrivener as support for a particular writing project. Others have also told me they find outlining to be a good tool, for example using OmniOutliner to gain an bird’s eye view of longer time periods, if you are doing historical research.
CPN and Sente function as my general repositories for pdf management and review notes. When I want to draw on particular articles or review notes during a writing process, I import them to Scrivener.
So, this is what the ‘big three’ look like for me. My routines for project management are still in the making, but at the moment they include Curio, Evernote, and iThoughtsHD – I’ll be doing a future post on this when I’ve got things more settled. I’ve written about task management here (using OmniFocus and SmallTask), and hand writing on the iPad here (where I use Notability). When reviewing colleagues’ or students’ work, I will often use a combination of iAnnotate and Word. My note taking routines depend on purpose: CPN is my main repository for my academic work, but I find their iPad app a bit flimsy, so I will sometimes work on notes in Pages (or any other writing app that a) allows formatting and b) syncs seamlessly between iPad and mac) and then later integrate them into CPN. Evernote is used for more personal notes, as well as project management notes (e.g. conference management and seminar organisation). The latter is especially useful in conjunction with my mail client Postbox, which has very good Evernote integration.
So, I think that concludes my response to Dellu for now – suggestions for improving my work flow are very welcome!