Re-Blog: 7 Smart Ways To Use Evernote For Research As A PhD – Next Scientist

OK- I still Love, Love, Love Evernote. It is one of my 3 technology saviours for my PhD and academic work (the other two are Dropbox and Mendeley) Here is a blog I read a while ago with some great tips for using Evernote to better organise your research. They had me very early on with the comparison to a ‘swiss army knife’… read on and enjoy ūüôā

7 Smart Ways To Use Evernote For Research As A PhD – Next Scientist.

Until next time,

Fiona T

Happy New Year, time to get organised again!

Happy New Year to all of my followers. I have taken a little time out these holidays, and not looked at anything work or thesis related for just over a week. Now I am getting back into the swing of things and preparing for a year of full time work, PhD confirmation in March and then data collection. There are a number of considerations when planning for this year to run smoothly. These include making realistic timelines and goals. With this ‘realistic’ idea in mind, I will be changing my blogging to be fortnightly for this blog, and monthly for my other blog (One Mad Tatter). I have also gotten back into meal planning in a serious way, and have set up my calendar until the end of March with nutritious weekday dinners that either WH or I can prepare quickly. I have added a Sunday cooking list to the calendar too, so that some bulk cooking and preparation can be done for the week ahead. Today I am making some yoghurt, flat bread to freeze and a big batch of bolognaise sauce to freeze too.

Thinking about getting more organised with my writing and thesis, I was trawling through some draft posts I have on wordpress and found this link to Michael Hyatt’s post on organising Evernote for maximum efficiency. How to Organize Evernote for Maximum Efficiency | Michael Hyatt. Having over 1,000 notes now, I think it is a good time of year to sort and tag my notes to increase my ease of searching in the future. Another feature of Evernote is that you can sort the notes that contain checkboxes, which is great as I am a fan of check boxes, and use them to indicate my ‘to-do’ tasks.


Knowing that any plan is only going to work if it is actioned, I’d better get into the cooking ūüôā

Fiona T.



Wishing you a Merry and organised Christmas.

Season’s Greetings to all of my readers and followers on Facebook and twitter.
This time of year brings with it a pause for me to reflect on the year and plan towards next year. At this time last year, I was in the midst of a frenzy of baking, wrapping presents and entertaining LT as he had started holidays. This year I decided to take a calmer, more organised approach to the season. I did this by planning well ahead of time the baking I wanted to complete and began to use my freezer to support the baking I like to do at this time of year. I baked Almond Bread loaves and stowed them in the freezer to be cut and baked only a couple of days ago. Next year I will make the cookie dough ahead of time and freeze this too. I also broke up the cooking over a couple of days, so I have time each day to spend with my family and relax too. This has worked pretty well, especially when on the last day I couldn’t store any more food in the fridge/freezer and so I cancelled the last day of baking!

Another thing I did to improve my use of time was to get photo cards printed to use as Christmas cards (I use , they have a 24 hour turn around and email the card to you to approve. These would also be great for invitations.) A couple of years ago I set up an excel spreadsheet with my address list for Christmas cards, and after a quick update for people who have moved, I printed off the labels. This made the Christmas card process more streamlined this year.

Christmas shopping was a combination of online and ‘real’ shopping, and I had a list on Evernote to track my ideas for different people we buy for.¬† This, I am happy to say, meant that I have bought less impulse presents, and so don’t feel that I have wasted money this year.

So, I am much calmer and looking forward to a busy but fun Christmas Season with my family and friends.

All the best for the holidays and happy New Year. I hope to see you all again in 2013, the year of full time work and part time ‘paperless’ PhD.

Fiona T

Mendeley vs EndNote -Guest Blog Post

This week one of my PhD friends, Hardimah Said,  has written a guest blog post for me. She has recently shifted her reference database from EndNote to Mendeley and agreed to write a review on her experience with Mendeley:

“I had heard about Mendeley quite a few times from friends and from reading some academic blogs, but I never really gave it a thought as my EndNote was doing a fine job for me so far. Until, recently, I came across this blog (a link recommended by one of the phdchat twitters,
and I don’t know what ‘special’ effect this blog had, but it made me want to instantly give it a go. I surfed the Mendeley website and 30 minutes later I had a Mendeley account and all my references from EndNote were transferred to Mendeley too.

One feature of Mendeley that I love is that it allows the detailed notes on the right side of the same window. Whereas for EndNote, any specific reference that I want to look at in detail, will need to be opened as a new window. I also like the read and annotate feature which I can’t do in EndNote. And I found that whatever EndNote can do, Mendeley can do it too; such as the Microsoft Word Plug-in.

But overall, what I like the most about Mendeley is what EndNote can’t do*.¬† The backup feature which allows it to be synchronised to all other devices. This is a very convenient feature which is similar to Evernote (another great app that I rely on very much every day). So I now don’t have to worry anymore about updating & saving my Endnote from my office pc to my thumb-drive, and then do the same thing to my EndNote on my pc and mac at home. I have been ‘manually syncing’ EndNote this way for the last 2 years, so the auto sync feature in Mendeley is great. Another good feature which I love is that Mendeley can be opened on the iPhone or iPad, while EndNote can’t.¬† I usually use my iPhone in bed before going to sleep and so now I can check Mendeley or do some reading before I start dreaming.

For now, these are the reasons why I’m a happy convert to Mendeley although I know there are more great features of Mendeley that I know will be useful to me being in an academic profession such as; sharing papers, collaborating with friends and creating my own profile for own publication.

Hardimah Said.”

Thanks Hardimah! I have been enjoying the sync feature on Mendeley too, it does take the worry out of the backing up process.

I wonder what reference system you (my readers) are relying on? Is it EndNote, Mendeley or another program? As always, feel free to share in the comments below, or over on the facebook page.

Until next week,

Fiona T

*At this time ( October 2012) we don’t have access to the latest version of EndNote via our institution. Thanks to Tilla from EndNote for her comments about the increased functionality of EndNote6.¬† (Blog post updated 16th October 2012)

Defining my ‘blockers’ and acting to eliminate them.

A good portion of this blog is about sharing with you (and recording for myself) my journey in becoming a PhD student. It is a journey that I am less than 1/3 of the way through. Looking over previous blog posts on this blog, I can see that I am regularly looking at my time and goals and changing how I organise my time to ensure I meet my goals.

In the last month I have become increasingly aware of some long term goals that are approaching, and that I need to start to pull these together (lit review, anyone, LOL).¬† After several weeks of this task appearing on my Evernote weekly to do list I stopped myself the other day from the thought process of: “have to write the lit review…I have the outline somewhere (turns on laptop to look for file….gets distracted by facebook, twitter, reading new blogs, filing articles)…oh gee..out of time today, better plan my classes for next week” and began to really think about why I haven’t started…In other words: What are my Blockers?

This technique has been very helpful over the last few months for me. In daunting tasks, for example writing letters of invitation for my research and Ethics applications. I knew the sort of thing I wanted to write but was avoiding actually putting these ideas into a document. I decided I had no good reason to avoid this any more, and so devoted a ‘pomodoro’ to this task. In 25 minutes this letter was written. I put it aside and looked at it the next day in another pomodoro, when I focused just on editing it.¬† I could finally tick this task off my list, and there was no good reason for my previous avoidance. I had spent more time avoiding the task than it actually took to complete it! There are a few other tasks just like that on my list that I have been tackling, bit by bit, pomodoro by pomodoro. The process of realising that you are procrastinating, and questioning why, then actually taking action to ‘get on with it’ sounds pretty obvious, but, like every other process it takes a conscious effort to acknowledge and improve our own behaviours to meet these goals.

This thought process and journey have also been helped along by my ‘wider reading’ of academic and PhD blogs. These blogs range in topic, and one that resonated with me a couple of days ago was this one,from PhD2Published : Charlotte and Jesse suggest that when your mind wanders to other things, perhaps it is time to take a break, do that other thing, and then return to writing refreshed. This is something I know to already work for me, my vices range, but include gardening, tatting and reading (not articles). I like this post as it ‘gives’ permission for me to be flexible and allow myself to be my best when I am in ‘PhD’ mode. I have also been reading and acting on the tasks in the Patricia Goodson ‘Becoming an academic writer’ book.¬† These exercises are giving me more structure to refine and develop my skills.

My PhD reading this week was around neuroscience and learning, and in terms of my own learning this quote stood out:

“…short-term motivational processes may have a powerful influence on long-term outcomes.” Van Geert and Steenbeek (2008) cited in Howard-Jones, et al. (2011)

I instantly thought ‘pomodoro’, as a tool for setting short term goals and then giving a structure to focus wholly on one task and make significant progress, this technique is really helping me. It supports the approach I have taken over the last few years, with my craft and show entry, my other studies and work… I chip away a little at a time, in regular bursts of approx 20 minutes (for reading and craft). This chipping away is the ‘short term motivational process’, and it is also the divergent challenge I need to have a mental break from my study, and return to it refreshed.

So, here is my ‘overcoming blockers’ action plan:

  1. Identify the task that you are avoiding.
  2. Think about the reasons why. Is it a mental blocker eg: ‘this task is to hard’ (ask yourself ‘why’, chances are it isn’t too hard at all, and maybe you need to do some more reading, or seek more specific help),¬† or is it a physical blocker; eg: ‘need printer ink’ then go and buy some…NOW.
  3. Once physical blockers are removed, commit some time to just start that task (I like pomodoros, but you may have another technique). If it is a big task (I’m thinking Lit Review here) plan several small goals that will build this over a few weeks.
  4. Remember, the aim is not necessarily to finish the whole task in one sitting. Perhaps a plan is a great starting point, then in the next session do some more or begin developing sections of your plan.
  5. Be realistic with your goals, short term motivational goals are not ‘2000 words in 25 minutes’. They are more like ‘list key points for each area, tag references to support key points’, next time might be ‘expand one set of key points’, and then session 3 may be ‘expand another set of key points’, and session 4 ‘edit writing from session 2 and 3’.
  6. Over the long term (I see this task as taking 4-5 weeks) you will see your project developing. I know from my past experience that the end product is satisfying and the ‘reward’ in a job well done will motivate me to my next set of goals.

Thanks for ‘listening’ while I planned my approach to my lit review. Now this week, I WILL start the plan and the writing. Promise ūüôā

I wonder what your ‘blockers’ are? How do you overcome them?

Until next week

Fiona T


Howard-Jones, P., Demetriou, S., Bogacz, R., Yoo, J. H., & Leonards, U. (2011). Toward a Science of Learning Games. Mind, Brain, and Education, 5(1), 33-41.

Ethics, Gamification, Evernote, Multimodal learning….just another week really.

First I want to invite you all to join me in a ‘happy dance’…My institution approved my ethics application this week. As a PhD student in my first year I am having a ‘moment of clarity’, realising that this journey is a series of milestones and many learning ‘hurdles’, and after last weeks blog I feel more and more comfortable that I don’t know it all, and am allowing myself time to develop my ideas and skills.¬† This ethics journey has been a longer process than I anticipated, but has taught me much about myself and my study that I hadn’t considered before, and I feel that I am in a better position as I progress in my study.

I am also developing ideas about how I best present my work to different audiences. Being absorbed in my reading and study of gaming and gamification of education is wonderful, but I need to hone my skills in framing what I now know in a way that is accessible to a wider audience. I need to remember that not everyone has accompanied me on the reading journey. I can do this more easily with science concepts, but I developed that skill over a 15 year teaching career, while I have been a student in this area for a much shorter time. With that in mind, I am adding a ‘gamification’ tag to my blog, and will re-tag posts that address this topic and so that I can use my blog more effectively as a learning journal too.

I have a couple of students at the moment who are emailing me links, or sending things on twitter that they think are interesting and want to discuss. The first one I want to share might help to situate the ideas of ‘gamification’ in classrooms. It is a link to the gamification wiki:, a place I had explored early on in my work, it is a good introduction to the main ideas, success and players in this exciting field.

The second one I want to share is a link to a blog on using Evernote with Kindergarten students: .  I think that one of the main blockers to using technologies in classrooms is that teachers and students need to develop ideas of what using these technologies can look like for them. The kindergarten blog is one example of how new technologies can provide a number of benefits to students and teachers alike, and it is easy to fit into what already happens in classrooms.

The third link related to one of the topics we were exploring in our classes this week, multimodal learning. As a class we were thinking about meeting the specific needs of the range of learners in classrooms, so thought about various sites and tools we could access, that present media in a variety of ways. Things like:

  • The app ‘Show me’ that works like an interactive white board, allowing students to create and record presentations to share, and
  • Inanimate Alice that is an interactive multimodal story with clear support and links to the Australian Curriculum. This in particular provided some great discussion about how it could and shouldn’t be used in my students future classrooms. I had seen talked about on twitter, but not explored it. I see some good applications for this in a variety of settings.
  • The wiki:, lots of tools for classroom use, categorised and listed for easy access.
  • A student sent me a link to this paper on multimodal learning from Ascilite 2010, Sankey, Birch and Gardiner article: Engaging students through multimodal learning environments: The journey continues. This article shares research linking students’ learning styles, their responses and perceived learning to particular multimodal stimuli in classroom activities.

So this week has been very busy, and I am glad I am on this learning journey.  Clearly my students are glad too as we are talking, sharing and re-shaping our ideas of what learning can look like. Please feel free to share blogs or sites that are helping you to re-shape your ideas of learning and possibilities of new technologies in our classrooms today.

Until next week

Fiona T

Plodding along…learning isn’t always lightning fast!

This week I have had a few ‘lightbulb’ moments. Thinking about my study and position as a Learner in this PhD journey has been hinted at in previous posts: like here, and here. I have been reading other blogs, attending #PhD chat when I can (this week the time and day changed so I used the wiki and twitter feed to read over later that evening), and actively talking with those around me about their study, techniques and journey.

I have also made definite strides in claiming back time to read and write, including attending a ‘shut up and write’ session run by my uni and trying ‘pomodoro’ time sessions for different tasks at different times. I found the ‘shut up and write’ session amazingly productive and one of my fellow PhD students, Violet, is planning on returning each week. I hope to go at least once a month at this stage. There is also talk of starting one in our graduate school (Ok, I started talking about it…but you will help too, won’t you Violet? LOL), to allow some other students and academic staff to reclaim space for writing.

The arrival of Patricia Goodson’s book, and my reading of the first two chapters helped to consolidate much of what my BB has been saying (probably for the last 18 months).¬† Patricia talks about protecting your writing time and making it a habit. BB has been sending me links and papers regularly and asking for my thoughts, encouraging the use of email and Evernote to communicate and push my articulation of ideas to a new level. My BB has been carefully, skillfully crafting my thinking of myself as a writer and academic for a long time now. She has been so supportive as a friend, generous with her time and in sharing her knowledge and expertise, and not just about conference packing! I have only just begun the PhD journey officially, BB and my second supervisor,¬† have given me the greatest gift: their confidence in me that I can learn this craft (of being an academic) and the support to be able to pick up and carry on when I do stumble. I hope they are not too disappointed that it has taken me this long to finally see myself in this light, sometimes I plod along slowly but I do get there!

I am writing this blog today with a new confidence, afforded by this new view of my identity as a ‘learner’ in this space. I am seeing my PhD for what it is, an apprenticeship in Academia, the space to practice, make mistakes and practice again. A sounding ground for my ideas as I move from being a Teacher to being an Academic. It is not a reality show where I have to ‘outdo’ the competition on a weekly basis or get voted out. It is a place I have earned a right to be, and a right and responsibility to learn all I can and try, try again until I produce my Thesis. I can see very clearly now the Thesis (while important) is another step in what will be a career in which I will never stop learning.

So what have I learned this week? That pomodoro writing and reading blocks work best for me to tackle tasks I need to begin, but that I see as too hard and so have been avoiding them. The pomodoro makes me focus; I don’t check my email, my phone or do any other tasks that pop into my head. I am always surprised at how much I get done and how ‘easy’ it is once I block the distractions for just one pomodoro. In the last two weeks I have used this method to free flow write approx 1,000 words (2 sessions), and then another session to edit my writing and tighten up the wording (1 session), by the end of this block of just 3 sessions I have written approx 1,500 words.¬† I write that not to gloat, but to remind myself what is possible if I stick to these methods. I may not do pomodoros all day, but using a few each week helps me feel like I am making great strides on multiple projects, and this is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment in itself.

So as I plod along this week and hope to write a more structured lit review, I wonder what light bulb moments have spurred you on in your own life, and even what stage of learning you see yourself at?

Until next week,

Fiona T

Thinking about ‘self’- extending mind and body to incorporate technology

One of my longtime friends and colleagues shared a clip on Facebook from a TedX talk and invited comments. I opened it up a new tab and this morning I had a chance to watch the 15 minute clip. I am writing these details because, if you reflect on my blog you will notice that it is becoming an example of what David Chalmers is talking about in this clip. People do ask me why I blog, and the key reason is that it is another way of using the ‘cloud’ and technologies to remember for me. I can write and reflect on various topics, all relating to my journey in my PhD and life at this time. It is stored in the ‘cloud’ and I can look at it when I need, and access links, and information (like my recipes) when I need them.¬† In time, I will be able to reflect on my whole journey, hopefully see growth in my writing and ideas as I emerge at the other end of this intensive learning journey.¬† So I invite you to watch and ponder the clip that got me thinking, thanks to the ‘extended consciousness’ now available via Facebook and my generous friend and colleague.

What did you think? Did David’s metaphor resonate with you? I liked the notebook, it is a reminder that humans have always relied on external storage for ideas and memories. The existence of the smart phone is making the storage of this information more secure (if you sync that is). I know my smartphone has reduced the level of stress in my life, as my appointments, phone numbers and Evernote are input and synced without me having to remember…and should the phone get stolen/lost I have it all backed up in the cloud.

I am also interested in how we identify ourselves using this technology. David touched on the idea that ‘google is making us smarter’. Indeed I feel less pressure to remember the trivia I used to, and know that I can use the expanse of the internets’¬† “collective consciousness” to find out anything I need to know in a ‘just in time’ capacity. From this paragraph perhaps you can see that I feel connected to and a part of this collective consciousness.¬† In my emerging self as an academic,¬† my self as a mother and wife, my self as a teacher, friend, and tatter, I draw on the ‘affordances’ of technology. This means that I use technology (my laptop, smartphone and internet for example) to store, source and synthesise a wide range of things in my life. Years ago I used notebooks and post-it notes, now it is mostly my smartphone, yet all of this has the same end purpose: to store and support my brain in recalling things important in my life.¬† I wonder how you ‘identify yourself’ using technology? Do they form an integral part of your life or professional identity?

Happy Father’s day to My Dad, WH and all the dads out there

Fiona T



A story about Twitter

Over the last few weeks I have been trying to use twitter more for my study. I attended a #phdchat on Wednesday run by thesiswhisperer and friends.¬† It was great to find out what works (and doesn’t work) for other students at varying stages of their PhD. In the hour I found out about a number of tricks and tools that could help me be more effective in my short bursts of writing time, including the pomodoro (essentially writing in 25 minute blocks).¬† I also, of course, talked about Evernote as my app of choice for organising my work, study and home life.

This is where the story gets more interesting; the next day a colleague from work was tweeting to me about ‘easyportfolio app’ as another option to Evernote, another person in the ‘twitterscape’ saw our conversation and gave a couple of links related to some of the higher features of Evernote.¬† I will link these blog posts here and thank Dave Ferguson, for drawing my attention to ways of using tags and checkboxes to further exploit the true capabilities of Evernote. This week I hope to sit down with these blog posts from Rudd Hein and play with Evernote to get even more out of this tool.

Blog post 1: Sorting for Checkboxes and to do lists

Blog post 2: Culling and Organising older notes

Once again Social Media is helping to make life a little easier, and quite honestly I don’t think I would have had time to search further for these blogs, as I am quite happy already with Evernote and the time it saves me. I really feel that using Twitter this week has been a bonus! So thanks #phdchat and helpful people on Twitter, it’s great to be a part of the conversation.

Do you have a story of how Social Media has given you a bonus, or perhaps allowed an opportunity you wouldn’t have had otherwise? Please share it below as a comment, or perhaps on the Facebook page.

Until next week

Fiona T

Evernote as a Formative Assessment Tool

Ok, so you all must know that I love using Evernote. I am hoping to use it to help me record and protect the data I gather in my up coming research. Here is a link to a blog about how a teacher uses evernote and her smart phone to record data from her students to aid assessment.

Evernote as a Formative Assessment Tool | Highlander Institute.

It is just one example of how ICT can make our professional lives easier. I would love to hear about your examples!

Fiona T

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