Category Archives: Using your tools

Some tips for using OneNote as a research journal


Tips by Joanna Paterson, Attribution-NonCommercial License

As I have mentioned before I use Endnote a lot, including for keeping a research journal. I like it a lot because it is flexible, searchable, automatically backed up on the cloud, and I can access it from my computer, ipad and phone so its always with me. OneNote can take a bit of getting used to, because it does not have all the features of writing software like Word, or table software like Excel. But it does do lots of things they don’t and links in well with them to make my life easier. Here are some tips I find particularly useful:

  1. Use your notebook as an alternative brain. You have enough to remember without cluttering your mind with where things are and what you did. Over a long project it gets hard to remember. Write it down in your notebook instead.
  2. Use the search function to find things. Once your notebook starts to get a lot of stuff in it, it can be hard to find things. But its much easier than a paper notebook because you have a search function.
  3. Rearrange pages and sections if you need to. OneNote will automatically put a date stamp on your entries so I tend to generally just enter them in sections by month. But sometimes I need to gather up all the pages that are on a certain topic and I move these to a new section on that topic. OneNote pages can be dragged and dropped to move them around easily.
  4. Make use of links to other parts of your OneNote notebook. Its easy to link to other pages and other notebooks in OneNote. Use this feature to refer to relevant previous entries like magic. Create organizing pages which summarise where things are.
  5. Use your notebook as one place to store information from all sorts of files, emails and webpages. You can create links to folders, spreadsheets and documents stored on your computer, send copies of emails to the notebook (including their attachments) and send copies of websites to your notebook. You can also insert photos of your fieldwork or photos of drawings/diagrams you have done. This way you have everything in one place where you can find it.

Using cross references in Word


cross by renee.hawk, Attribution-NoDerivs Licence

Cross references are really handy tools in Word when you are writing a long and complex document. They help by automatically keeping track of where things you are referring readers to are located in the document, and they update automatically if you need to change where things are.

So, for example, you may have several figures you need to refer to, and at some point you may need to move these around to different places in your document. What was originally labelled Figure 1, may need to change to be called Figure 3 and all the other figure names may need to change accordingly. Instead of manually having to change all the figure captions as well as all the places in the document you have referred to the figures, Word can do this for you automatically as soon as you move the figure. Can you see how helpful that would be?

This link will show you how to use cross references in your document.

Customising your status bar in Word

Word has a status bar at the bottom which gives you useful information about your document.


You can customise the things you want to see in the status bar to suit your needs. For example

  • Showing the sections can be useful if you are using section breaks in your documents
  • Showing the word count is useful to track your writing productivity or if you are working to word limits
  • Showing whether tracked changes are on is useful if you are often using tracked changes

Even better, the things showing in the status bar have functionality if you click on them. For example clicking on tracked changes toggles this on and off.

You can set the options for what you want to see by right clicking in the status bar and selecting the tools you want to show.


Using white space: delineating paragraphs


The Mel’s Session by Difusa, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

A few weeks ago we spoke about keeping paragraphs together. Today’s post may seem contradictory as I am talking about keeping paragraphs apart!

The words that you write help readers know when a paragraph is ending and a new one is beginning as I have discussed here and here. But another thing that helps readers is white space. There has to be sufficient white space for it to be clear that a new paragraph is beginning, but not so much white space that your paragraphs seem disconnected. You need to look at your page and use your judgement about this. There are no hard and fast rules.

The defaults in newer software versions are usually a good choice. But remember that these default spacings are associated with the default font size and with single (or near single) line spacing. If you need to increase your font size or your line spacing because your supervisor or university requires it, the white space you leave between paragraphs will need to increase so that your paragraphs are clearly delineated.

So how do you control the spacing between paragraphs in your document? Rather than hitting the “enter” key more than once, you should use the paragraph styles to control the spacing of your paragraphs. This gives you an easy way to change all your paragraphs at once and keep them consistent. You can try different spacings until it looks right.

In Word, the paragraphs in your document will use the “Normal” style by default. You can change the space between paragraphs by right clicking on the Normal style in the Styles section of the Home ribbon (see below) and selecting Modify


On the Modify Style window that comes up, select Paragraph from the drop down Format button at the bottom left.


Then you can alter the spacing between paragraphs by changing the figures in the  Spacing Before and/or After boxes.



If you are completely unfamiliar Word styles, see this blog for more details.

Keeping paragraphs together


Together by Laura Limón, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

Have you ever noticed that page breaks are not where you want them to be? It can make it hard to read documents if the heading is at the bottom of the page and not with the text it is the heading for. Or if a bulleted list is broken across a page.

You could insert manual line breaks, but there is a better way which allows to Word to keep it all under control even when you make changes to the document. It can link two paragraphs so they always stay together on one page.

Just right click the heading or paragraph that you want to stay on the same page as the next one, and choose Paragraph from the options that appear.


In the paragraph window, go to the Line and Page Breaks tab and tick Keep with next.


That’s it! Done.

Using Crossref to find DOIs


Mallard by DOI by Steve, Attribution License

In some referencing systems you need to provide the DOI or digital object identifier. Often when you download a citation into Endnote, the DOI will download as well. Most journal websites also have them listed with the abstract. However if you need to find DOIs for several references, going to each journal site can be very time consuming. Instead, use the Crossref website. Just copy and paste the reference, or part of it into the search box at the top of the page and Crossref will find the reference and its DOI.

The comments tool in word


When you send your supervisor a draft for feedback, they may annotate it electronically using the comment tool. Comments are also useful for you to keep helpful notes for yourself, or to explain where you are up to, to your supervisor. A major advantage of the comments is that they can be hidden, so you can read without the interfering with your reading when you need to. Because of this I much prefer to use comments when making notes to myself than to use highlighting or add temporary text.

This posting gives you some basic instructions which include how to add, delete, and hide comments.

How good are your backups?


Spider (my Spare Cat) by Mike Shields, Attribution-NoDerivs Licence

An email from a student this week reminded me how often people don’t have an adequate backup strategy for their work. Can you imagine what would happen if right now -right this minute-you had to evacuate the building you are in because of a fire? Not a fire drill, but a real fire, that you are lucky to escape from. No time to pick up anything. You need to leave now. The fire is destroying the building, including all your references, your computer, your back up discs and external hard drives, but to get out alive you can’t take any of it with you.

Most of us, thankfully don’t have to face such a drastic scenario, although it did happen to Alisdair Daws as he wrote his honours thesis (see his post for more about this However lots (perhaps all) of us lose work at some stage for various reasons, ranging from the mundane (we accidentally delete it), to the malicious (a virus infects our hard drive and wipes our files), to the accidental (we drop our laptop and the hard drive never works again).

So now might be a good time to check your backups. Do you have them at all? How much of your recent work do they contain? How much of last months work do they contain? Is the information actually retrievable from the backup files? Where are they? All in one place?

This post has more specific advice about setting up a back-up strategy and where to get free software to help you automate it.

What to do when Endnote adds initials to citations


The name is 5995, Cow 5995, by Wesley de Ridder, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

When you are citing literature in Endnote using an author-date system, you will sometimes find that Endnote adds author initials to your citations. So instead of
      (Smith and Weston, 2004),
it says
      (R. A. Smith and Weston, 2004).
This is so annoying! But its really easy to fix once you realise why Endnote has done it.

Endnote does this when you have two authors with the same surname, so that readers can tell which Smith you re talking about. For example, if somewhere else in your document you have cited L. L. Smith and Jones, 1999, then adding the initials to both is necessary. Unfortunately in those cases you just have to live with it.

But what about when its the same Smith, but Endnote still adds the initials?  You will often find you are citing more than one of the same author’s papers so it can be a common problem. The issue is that Endnote doesn’t know its the same Smith, because you have slightly different entries for the author’s names.

So, for example, if one reference is listed as authored by
       Ronald A. Smith
and another is listed as authored by
 –      R. A. Smith
then Endnote thinks these are different people.

To fix this what you need to do is look at your references in Endnote and make the authors all the same. (Well only if they really are the same people!) And I mean exactly the same. Full stops make a difference to Endnote. I also found that spaces do to and these can be tricky if there is a space at the end of the name as you can’t see it.

I usually don’t worry if names are slightly different as I enter them in Endnote. I wait until I see a problem in the document I am writing, because I have far more references in Endnote than I would ever use in one document.