After looking at how to read, annotate and store papers you've read it's useful to discuss how to organise your research in the scope of a project.
On the MSc course at Glasgow we have all been asked to buy a hardback ledger in which we are to keep a diary of what we are doing in our research. That's fine, but I'm a computing scientist, writing things down goes against the grain - I want a computing related solution to this problem.
After a while contemplating I concluded that alternatives to having a hardback book would be:
- blogging software (i.e. WordPress)
- wiki software (i.e. MediaWiki)
Blogs lend themselves to chronological recording of data, after-all they are in necessity online diaries. Blogs can be a simple way to record ideas, dates of events and so on.
Wikis, although not strictly ordering entries by time and date, allow for very easy addition and formatting of new content. Most wikis will allow you to create categorised or special pages. For example in MediaWiki pages can be prefixed when naming them, this can be used to categorise the pages.
Both blogging software and wikis can be used in combination of course, blogs giving the chronological progression between different research papers and wikis showing the resulting thoughts, summaries and so on that you generate.
Why do it?
Keeping a digital version of this information means we don't have any issue with loosing the research journal or spilling coffee over it (note: don't spill coffee over your computer either).
Project co-ordinators can see how you are progressing, comment on what they think of your research via comment mechanisms in a blog and talk/discuss pages on a wiki.
Online versions of research journals can help in collaborative projects - the research journal becomes a platform for collective reasoning, interaction, and the sharing of ideas.
If you don't want to do it electronically
The real lesson to take away from this post is that a research journal is a good thing to have, be it a bound book, wiki, blog or whatever combination.
My Wiki usage
I am currently doing research on my project for the year, which is what sparked this article, SonG. For the project I use a wiki to manage my research, post ideas, and transcribe meeting minutes to mention a few things. I thought it may be useful to share the page title formats I use for doing so.
MM= month and
KEY= the bibliography key for the paper
I hope this is useful to anyone doing a project involving any type of research, although this type of journal is not restricted to only research based projects.