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In this system, you conducted all your research with a 3×5 index card at the ready.And the first thing you did was to write a bibliographic cross-reference in the bottom right hand corner of the card. And there was never any confusion between your own thoughts and those of the authors you were reading.
In a highly individualized society like the United States, that’s a huge problem. The first stage in the writing process is brainstorming, and it’s intended to be a very open process of determining what CAN be said about a particular topic.
Only later does an author determine what he or she WANTS to say about a topic. When we take notes on a computer, we do so in a single document.
Unfortunately, it is not an available option for government writers.
Microsoft One Note allows the creation of notebooks and note pages with the flexibility to add any sort of media anywhere on the page. Like Evernote, it is part of an online platform so you can clip web pages and collaborate with others.
We bought a big metal ring and used a single-hole punch on the upper left hand corner of a pack of 3×5 index cards. A research index, working bibliography, and research notes at your disposal.
I don’t think I’m alone in expressing a certain nostalgia for those days.
As part of the Microsoft Office suite, it is probably the best, possibly the only, option available to government writers.
Regardless which program you choose, remember the lessons learned from index cards.
After the response to this recent Life Hacker piece, I thought I would explain the system I use to take notes, research books and keep track of anecdotes, stories and info I come across in my work. It’s responsible for helping me publish three books in three years, (along with other books I’ve had the privilege of contributing to), write countless articles published in newspapers and websites, send out my reading recommendations every month, and make all sorts of other work and personal successes possible. If anything, I use a perverted version of a system taught to me by the genius Robert Greene, when I was his research assistant. By the end of it, I promise the system will make sense.
All I can say is that since learning it about 7 years ago, it has totally transformed my process and drastically increased my creative output. But it’s still be hugely helpful to me and I think I’m in a unique position to explain this method to people. -It’s difficult to describe this in any linear way so I am just going to do this in kind a brain dump way.