Part II: In the Digital Age: How To Collect Research to Write A Paper

When did we lose the art of notecards? Remember orderly placing them all out on the living room floor, and trying to piece together a coherent story that would get us a passing grade. Cut and Paste on the computer THANKFULLY replaced that archaic system — but, we lost big time!

Stick with me — I know these pictures look scary — but they’re really not. It’s scarier to not try this when facing a deadline!

In Part II of How to Collect Research to Write A Paper, I’ll show you how to write this paper. When the mind is busy trying to create order out of chaos, it is learning. It is filling in the blanks with its own knowledge from other places, and it is organizing themes, arguments and creating conclusions about what it sees.

You will get a little bit of this by cutting and pasting on a computer, moving sections around so that the whole piece flows — but you are still missing the full benefit. Besides, as the document scrolls down the computer screen — you may be fine cutting and pasting Part A and Part B, but when you get to D, E or even G and H — you’ll be scrolling away precious minutes trying to get your paper organized.

Trello, yes, it’s free, is a far better way to approach this — it uses notecards that you can literally move around with your mouse — just like the old days. Each column has a topic sentence — which could be used for subheads or paragraphs.

Trello gives you the opportunity to see your paper stretched out in columns in pieces that you can interchange your ideas and key points like building blocks.

I firmly believe that as you go through this process, your brain is learning — this can be a painful process, and you, or your child, will likely want to walk away and give up.  But this is where the magic does happen. Once you have your paper organized here, you are just a few steps away from a finished draft.

Just a note — when you come across a notecard that you want to discard — create a new list for these cards — you can name it “discards.” This way, the note is still there if you decide to resurrect it.

Once you’re satisfied with your Trello board, you will want to move it over to a word processing program, by list, so that you can begin writing, section by section. You can’t just copy and past your boards — it won’t let you copy all of the notecards. What you want to do is download the board into Excel, or Google Sheets, which will sort the information, by list (topic) and by card, into a cell, which you can then copy and paste by list. You can do this with a chrome add-on called Export For Trello, also free. The reason you want to do this is that Excel will make different cells for each of your columns. This gives you the opportunity to work with one “list” or “subhead” or “main idea” at a time. Mentally, breaking down the project this way help you see the end in sight, but also makes the process of writing fo much more manageable.

You do not have to be proficient at Excel or Sheets to do this — you are just using this as a way to format and grab your content – – the only two columns you need to worry about are the first two.

Notice how the text is all squished together? That’s OK. We’re aren’t going to be working here — this is just a pitstop. Notice how the words in the first column are repeated — that’s because it’s letter you know that this note, in section b, corresponds to the same “main idea” or list.

You simply put your cursor at the top of Column B and drag your mouse down to the end of the column. (I typically don’t start with the beginning — you can work on your main idea in any order that you want — because each one should be able to stand on its own!)

Once you have included the entire list in the section, simply copy the text — yes, it will grab everything in the cell highlighted — even what you can’t see because the column isn’t formatted wide enough.

Now, you can paste this column directly into your word processor — but if you want to strip all of the “table” formatting that showed up in Excel, you’re smart to paste this text into notepad first — just so that the only thing you’re copying is the text.  Once you’ve pasted in notepad, you simply paste into word — and start writing. Use the notes you have copied to link the ideas together say what you want to say in your own words.

Repeat for each list in Trello, until you have your draft ready. Put this away, and pick it up in a couple of days and make your idea tighter and stronger.

The beauty of this? You hardly type until you’re ready. All along you have been cutting and pasting notes with Diigo, and Trello.  Saves time, and lowers the chances of that pesky Carpal Tunnel creeping up on you. Now that the ideas are firmly cemented in your mind, you should have no trouble writing your draft.

Now that the ideas are firmly cemented in your mind, you should have no trouble writing your draft. If you are stuck — you jumped to Excel before you were ready. Go back to Trello and start generating ideas!



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