Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Note-keeping during the research process

Last night's Second Life Just Genealogy meeting focused on the GPS Genealogical Proof Standard including these key elements.

  • Reasonably exhaustive search
  • Complete and accurate citation of sources
  • Analysis and correlation of the collected information
  • Resolution of conflicting evidence
  • Soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion
What developed was a serious discussion of WHERE to keep a digital copy of research and analysis during the research process that can take many months or years before concluding. One participant explained she has to flip through her paper pages wasting time looking for an obscure notation. We all agreed that paper note-keeping isn't productive since it doesn't permit a computer to do an every-word search of the contents.

The necessity of a note-keeping program assumes we're not ready to place the information into our genealogy management program. (Ol' Myrt here doesn't like to enter names and info until they until a family relationship has been established.)

Two note-keeping options emerged as popular among attendees:

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a "free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, cite, and share your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself." However, this concerns me since the majority of my personal research is not done online. Perhaps those more experienced could comment.

Evernote is Ol' Myrt's program of choice for keeping track of research in progress.

The beauty of this "cloud computing" software is that I can connect to my info from any computer with internet access.

WHAT ARE MY DearREADERS "note-keeping" programs of choice? 

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.


  1. Myrt,

    I have started to use Zotero to manage my genealogy research. It is a very good tool for managing sources, as it is intended primarily for research. It is not as flexible as Evernote for gathering data from multiple sources, since Zotero runs inside the Firefox browser (and only Firefox, not Internet Explorer, Chrome, etc.). But it does do a good job of taking snapshots of web pages which it stores for later retrieval.

    Zotero does work offline, when no Internet connection is available. As its support documentation states: "You do not have to be online, however to use Zotero; features such as notes, search, organization will work perfectly well offline, although obviously you will not be able to view some online items in your collection or to acquire other online materials." Basically, Zotero creates an offline database on your hard drive which it synchronizes with an online copy whenever you have an Internet connection. That way, you can access the same data from any PC where you have both Firefox and Zotero installed.

    So, for research and source management, it is an excellent tool. For flexibility and capturing non-web-based material, it lacks some of the functionality that Evernote offers. However, I see no reason why the two tools couldn't be used in combination.

  2. I have been using Microsoft OneNote lately with much more success than notebook paper. I would love to become more "sophisticated" in its use however as I know I am not using it to its full potential.

  3. I've been using OneNote, but have been wishing I had something like this that captured source documentation better, so I was excited to read this post.

    Concerned by the same issue you brought up about not all research is done or at the same location, I spent a few minutes working through their documentation. They do indicate that one can access the information from any computer with the internet, as well as sync the data from one computer to another.

    Zotero also indicates that items can be added by identifier, such as an ISBN number, which it then sources using WorldCat (for ISBN) or CrossRef (for Digital Object Identifiers). It also allows one to import from other reference tools, such as EndNote. And one can enter items manually.

    I'm looking forward to trying this one out.

    Thanks Myrtle!

  4. Late comment to this post: Zotero recently announced that a product named "Zotero Everywhere" is in production which will allow Zotero to work as a stand-alone desktop application that will interface with any browser - not just Firefox. Posts on the Zotero blog provide further information:

    Zotero Everywhere:

    Zotero Everywhere First Look: