Utilizing EverNote to Keep Your Research Organized

Sick of juggling Word documents and notebooks? Trying to find a way to keep your research organized? EverNote may be the tool you need!

EverNote is a popular program that can be accessed from the web, but also downloaded as software on your computer, or as an app on your mobile device or tablet. It is, at its core, built for note-taking and storing information. The free plan allows up to 60 MB of uploads per month (which is typically more than enough for most people), or you can buy their “Plus” package for $34.99/year, or “Premium” for $69.99/year, which give increased storage options, as well as special features.

Academically, EverNote is a great tool if you’re taking lots of notes on various sources. You can store groups of notes in “notebooks,” tag notes with key ideas, as well as upload photos or documents from elsewhere. EverNote syncs up between devices, which can be helpful if you don’t want to lug your laptop from place to place and want to use your tablet to take notes instead.

Now, I’ll walk you through the EverNote interface, and explain how I used EverNote to organize research I did on nineteenth-century cookbooks and food at the Massachusetts Historical Society last summer.

When you log into EverNote, you’ll be taken to a page that includes all of the Notes you’ve taken.

Here's my homepage.

Here’s my homepage.

Now, if you’re working on multiple projects, dealing with all of these at once can be kind of complicated. Thankfully, you have two ways to dwindle down what you’re looking for. The first is to go to your Notebooks. When you’re doing research in EverNote, it’s helpful to organize like-notes into a Notebook, so that they’re grouped together. So for my research project, I grouped my notes into a Notebook called “Boston.”

Tutorial 2 Edit

From there, I have a list of each individual Note that I took while at the MHS. You can sort the way the list appears – I just happen to have them sorted by the Date Updated. From there you can scroll around and find what you’re looking for. But if you want to narrow down your results even more, you can use the search tool to look for keywords, either in a specific notebook or in all of your notes, or you can look for tags that you add to your notes. When you press the Tags button, a list of all the tags you’ve used for your Notes pops up. In this case, I want to look at everything I tagged with “Desserts.”

Tutorial 3 Edit

Tags are only useful if you implement them in the first place, so remember to tag your research as you go along!

A list of the Notes I took that I tagged with "Desserts."

A list of the Notes I took that I tagged with “Desserts.”

As you can see, that narrowed my results down to six results, as opposed to the forty-seven notes I had in my Boston Notebook.

Now, academic notetaking is just one way to use EverNote. EverNote prides itself on having many uses – from being a place of collaboration for offices, to keeping your various to-do lists in one place. It’s up to the user to decide how they would like to use EverNote.

Now, it’s not a perfect program. If a user wants to use some of the fancier aspects of the program, some of the controls are confusing and difficult to figure out at first. Further, I have had issues in the past with the app running slow on my tablet, or crashing in the middle of a note-taking session. (Of course, the notes save automatically and frequently, but it’s frustrating when you’re ten minutes from an archive closing and you’re trying to boot your app up again.) My biggest issue with Evernote, however, is the image-taking system.

At its core, the image-taking system is not a bad idea. However, by trying to make certain images text-searchable, it can ruin the integrity of the image itself. For example, I tried to capture an image of some of the handwritten notes in the Massachusetts Historical Society’s copy of The Young Housekeeper’s Friend, and the Evernote system bleached the pages out, and made the marginalia difficult to read.

Mary Hooker Cornelius, The Young Housekeeper's Friend: or, a Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort, 1850. Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Mary Hooker Cornelius, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend: or, a Guide to Domestic Economy and Comfort, 1850. Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

All-in-all, EverNote can be a useful tool for a researcher on-the-go who is trying to stay organized while syncing along various platforms, as well as serving as an organizational tool for every day life!

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