Organise your research with OneNote

At Nepeta, we spend quite a lot of time researching. This can be looking for the best theme or plugin for a website, solving a technical problem or finding other information for a client.

How we research

All research works in the same way. You start by Googling and then you follow links. As you go, you find a lot of junk but there are a few nuggets in there and you may jot down some relevant information. The problem comes when you start reviewing what you have found. How many times do you find yourself:

  • scouring your history to find a page you forgot to make a note of (often unsuccessfully)?
  • trying to remember why you rejected the theme/ plugin/ information?
  • trying to decypher a scribble which we know is important?
  • generally going round in circles?

Using OneNote

Screenshot of OneNote docked to a browser window

The answer, unsurprisingly, is to get organised and make notes as you go. There are many ways of doing this and one of these is using OneNote. I first came across it as it was part of our MS Office package, but it is now available as a free download for all sorts of different devices. To my mind, the big plus is that once it is opened and docked, it will record where you are whenever you type anything into it. That means that you can jot down comments on the content of a web page and OneNote will automatically save the web address. Hover over the comment and you can click to return to the relevant page. That saves a lot of cut and pasting of web addresses, you just have to remember to make the note.

Getting organised

How you organise your notes is a very personal thing. I have several OneNote notebooks – some stored on my computer while others are synchronised up to our Office 365 site for sharing. Within a notebook I use tabs for projects and pages for individual questions. My preference is to use it only for the basic research.  I will then refine the results into a document for discussion. OneNote is set up to allow for sharing and multiple synchronous users but I don’t think my note taking style is up to it!

There are other note taking apps available offering similar functionality. If you are still scribbling on paper or pasting into Word, I would suggest you give one of these apps a try. If it saves you going round it circles, it has to be worth it!