The Filing Problem: Some Replies

Just a few responses i had to my post about the filing problem. I’m still interested to hear from any one else who has good advice on information management systems

MD said:

You know you’re having a frustrated day when you reply quickly to emails about filing. Nonetheless:

All my bibliography stuff is handled by something called BibTeX which is part of a typesetting system called LaTeX. Maybe you’ve come across it? (It’s all very open source and free etc..)

You essentially have a text-based database that stores all your referebces, with as much or as little meta-info as you want. Then you write all your writing in LaTeX which is a mark-up language useful for mathsy documents (but I reckon dead useful in general) which can include citations. The LaTeX document looks at your BibTeX file and pulls out and formats the appropriate references.

LaTeX is generally great, especially when you want to combine two documents and you don’t want to re-number everything (sections, figures, equations etc). So my thesis will be a cut-and-paste job of my articles/reports, and I’ll not have to re-format everything. Plus it looks good.

LaTeX might represent an over the top learngin curve for non-maths stuff, I don’t know. Have no idea how to keep track of paper stuff.

RS said:

Personally I would just build a small access database. Each discrete item gets several properties: format, keywords, location etc. for hard copies you can then just have a numerical index linked to a database entry. For soft copies each item could be hyperlinked or embedded in the database. You would then find it easy to generate search queries based on keywords. You could easily flag sources that are referenced in individual papers you are working on and if laid out correctly you could then auto-generate a list of bibliographic references. Whilst I don’t know how you could exactly do it I think it should also be possible to link references within a document to the database entry. Whilst it would take a while to build I think it would be quite a powerful tool.

You could store notes separately and cross reference papers within the database directly. It would mean entering a bunch of data each time you read a paper but it would probably repay the time invested.

WJ, displaying an uncharacteristic lack of rigour, said:

Disorganisation is the key to innovative academic research 😉

I’m not a good example…. hard copies are rare…. pdfs are by
subject mainly (and with replications for when i’m writing a
particular paper)…. format is always of the type “Jennings (2004)
The Politics of Celebration.pdf” [i.e. name (date) short title for own
personal reference].

have a few articles stored by author. but only a few.

KG said:

M$ Access all the way. I’d love to know if there is a GPU licenced alternative with similar functionality, but last time I asked a free software geek he suggested that if you want a graphic interface you’re stuffed.

Access cos flexible, hyperlinkable, searchable, expandable and webable (if your really keen). I store references to all my info in one integrated database, (split according to source type: authored book, edited book, journal, web, other) including a section for notes on each. I store a list of things to read there too, and can search titles and authors in the whole lot in one go, but filter unread if you just want something you’ve actually seen. My bibliography creation is pretty clunky (read: doesn’t work) but will be sortable by the time I’ve got a thesis to add a bibliography to.

There’s also the potential bonus that if you’ve got a bunch of friendly academics or research team all using access on the same network you could actually use the same db and choose to just see your references or the whole project’s, including notes they’ve made on readings – if you trust x and he says paper y is crap, then thats one less to read!

Anyways, come round for a test drive, and you can have the shell of mine to play with if you like.

3 replies on “The Filing Problem: Some Replies”

Keeping track of stuff

In the aftermath of the elections, it doesn’t look as if anyone in government will be calling on me for frank and fearless advice1 any time soon. So this seems like a good time to get my records in order….

Keeping track of stuff

In the aftermath of the elections, it doesn’t look as if anyone in government will be calling on me for frank and fearless advice1 any time soon. So this seems like a good time to get my records in order….

The Filing Problem: Some More Replies

And just a couple more comments which arrived by email, on the filing problem, and solutions GP Says: I opt for the ‘disorganised piles in boxes’ approach, and a brain which alway knows that ‘I’ve read something about that somewhere, now what was it an…

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