I use a lot of programs in my day-to-day research to keep track of information (and to write) and they usually elicit interesting comments from those watching me work. So I thought that I would share some of the most important tools that have helped me be more productive. My current set-up is kind of complicated (I have an iMac at home, and an iPad on the go, and I sometimes use a PC netbook on the road). This next gem called iThoughtsHD is iPad/iPhone only (although the things you export from it can be used on any platform).
Let me first just say that I really believe in the power of mind-mapping. I think it is one of the most useful things you can do to chart your argument or to compile preliminary ideas about a topic. Even when I was in middle school, I used to “draw” my essay in a series of connecting bubbles before I ever got the gumption to sit down and write. iThoughtsHD is one of the most powerful and versatile mind-mapping apps that I have tried (and I have tried MANY). It allows me to see connections between subjects in new ways and can be intensely useful when it comes to outlining or charting relationships. You have a lot of control over how your map looks (and you can even import images in lieu of or in conjunction with text). And something really useful is the ability to export the mind-maps visually or in outline-form as PDFs or as images (which can then be used within a program like Scrivener alongside the document you are working on, or shared with other people). And a final, crucial factor: it is easy to use.
Just off of the top of my head, here are some things that I regular use the program for:
- Keeping a chart of historical figures who visited Hokkaido, with the dates of their trip and any resulting publications. I also have a chart of figures within Japan, and a chart of Ainu family relationships as they appear in travel narratives. This then serves as a quick reference guide for important dates.
- Writing a time line of events, which I also use as a quick reference guide later on in the writing process.
- Constructing a dissertation outline (with robust chapter outlines and important images that I want to use in each chapter).
- Keeping track of new project ideas that I have, to file away for future use.
- Creating lesson plans centered around learning objectives.
I would be really curious about other ways that people use mind-mapping in their work flow, either through iThoughtsHD or another program!
EDIT: A bonus that I forgot to mention! It is compatible with Japanese and a variety of other languages.