After a break for the holidays and the beginning of the year activities I need to get working on my dissertation again. I want to have a good method for taking notes so that they are easy to reference while I am writing. But I have been frustrated by the lack of good software for academic writing.
Maybe the problem is that not many academic types are geeks, but it shouldn’t be this difficult. With my background in computer programming I can envision the ideal software for dissertation writing because I know what is possible. It would have the following characteristics:
Source management features:
- a bibliographic database for sources, complete with keywords and the ability to search
- ability remotely log into library catalogers and import bibliographic data directly into the database
- automatic formatting of footnotes according to a wide variety of style requirements
- ability to create new citation styles if necessary
- automatic creation and updating of first reference and subsequent reference footnotes
- automatic creation of a bibliography of works cited
Quotation management features:
- a note card feature for recording research notes and quotations
- link between note cards and bibliographic database so that when the note is pasted into the document the footnote is automatically generated
- searchable keyword categories for the notes
- an outline manager to organize the notes according to the outline for the paper
- a way to track which quotes have been used, and if necessary to locate them in the paper
It may sound like a lot, but this is all very doable. Actually, I have settled on Endnote for my bibliographic software, and it will handle every thing in the first category. But I have not been able to find a satisfactory program for the quotation management, and certainly nothing that integrates the two.
I was tempted to start a programming project and work on the software myself, but I don’t think that I can afford to use my dissertation study time for the next 6 months to develop software. Instead I think I will try out setting up a very simple note card database in Microsoft Access. It won’t be linked to Endnote, but at least I can manage my quotes and set up keywords. I will enter abbreviated reference information on the “card,” and then use Endnote to generate the footnote when I paste the quotation into my document. Hopefully this will be a reasonable work around. I will let you know!
Update: I found out a way to enter Rich Text (i.e. font and formatting) in an Access field. So now I can correctly enter any bold or italic fonts in my quotations. My Access application is growing a little bit at a time as I get around to tweaking it. (3-23-06)