Wikis for Notes

researchblog.jpgI am a big fan of wikis for note-taking, research mater­ial col­la­tion and organ­iz­a­tion. There are a wide vari­ety of easy to use, free wiki ser­vices online and an increas­ing num­ber of small foot­print, simple stan­dalone wikis. I prob­ably should have blogged about this earlier and shared some of my exper­i­ences, but an excel­lent art­icle by Dustin Wax at does a superb job of explain­ing the rationale and gives some great how to tips.
I have been using a wiki for most of my research notes for the past two years. At the entry stage, it forces me to think logic­ally and struc­tur­ally when enter­ing inform­a­tion, but without for­cing me to lose my research train of thought. I can focus on the research and the con­tent and quickly and effi­ciently add mater­ial to a secure repos­it­ory. At the stage of inter­pret­a­tion and work­ing with a large body of notes of all types, and a mix­ture of media, the wiki auto­mat­ic­ally provides data views from over­view, drilling down to detail by vir­tue of its own struc­ture. When it comes to actu­ally hav­ing to appreciate/measure your own pro­gress, or doc­u­ment the state of your research, the wiki allows for very flex­ible re-purposing of con­tent.
I poin­ted above at Geof­frey Rockwell’s blog entry for a talk given by John Brad­ley this week at McMas­ter about his Pliny Pro­ject. What has stuck with me from John’s talk is the thought he has put into the delib­er­at­ive inter­pret­a­tion of human­it­ies research. The point at which we con­sider what we have read, what we have made notes on and com­piled. How do we go from note tak­ing to present­a­tion of our own thoughts? Pliny is a valu­able tool for man­aging the inter­pret­at­ive pro­cess — one which seems to be largely unad­dressed by many of our hi-tech tools. How­ever, wikis are another tool like Pliny that can aid in the inter­pret­at­ive pro­cess.
Although wikis are clearly not for every­one, find­ing the tools that suit your way of think­ing or make up for your own idio­syn­crasies (I point the fin­ger at my own here) involve exper­i­ment­a­tion and invest­ig­a­tion. I com­mend wikis to your kit­bag if you haven’t played with using your own yet.

3 thoughts on “Wikis for Notes

  1. Shawn,

    Thanks for the link and kind words. I tried to find a link to email you dir­ectly, but couldn’t, so excuse this pub­lic cor­rec­tion — my post on wikis is on, not life­hacker! A com­mon mis­take, one I admit I made myself before becom­ing a writer at

    Also, totally ran­dom aside, we’re theme-mates! My per­sonal site at uses the same theme as yours (minus the modi­fic­a­tions we’ve both made). That means some­thing, I’m sure of it!

    Thanks again!

  2. Dustin,

    Always good to meet a theme-mate. I do like what you have done with it…always look­ing for little tweaks.Correction made. Thanks again for the very thought­ful art­icle. Am anxious to point stu­dents at it.


  3. Pingback: If I Knew Then What I Know Now… » randomosity » Blog Archive If I Knew Then What I Know Now… »

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