Organize Your Research in Evernote: Strategies for Writers | Amy Stewart | Skillshare

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Organize Your Research in Evernote: Strategies for Writers

teacher avatar Amy Stewart, Writer & artist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (20m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. What Does Evernote Do?

    • 3. How to Get Your Files Into Evernote

    • 4. Using the App

    • 5. A Few More Useful Features

    • 6. My Favorite Evernote Tricks

    • 7. Use Evernote for Ideas, Brainstorming, and Plotting

    • 8. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

If you’re about to dive into a big research project, whether it’s for a book, a dissertation, or some other kind of writing project, you’ll be so much better off if you set up a good system for organizing it all before you jump in.

This class will teach you how to keep track of all your research in Evernote. Writers can also use Evernote to brainstorm book ideas, organize a plot, and keep track of ideas for other professional projects, like teaching workshops.

Meet Your Teacher

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Amy Stewart

Writer & artist



Welcome! For the last twenty years, I've devoted my life to making art and writing books. It gives me great joy to share what I've learned with you. 

I love talking to writers and artists, and bonding over the creative process. I started teaching so that I can  inspire others to take the leap. 

I believe that drawing, painting, and writing are all teachable skills. Forget about talent--it doesn't exist, and you don't need it. With some quality instruction and lots of practice, any of us can make meaningful, honest, and unique art and literature.

I'm the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen books. When I'm not writing or traveling on book tour, I'm painting and drawing in ink, watercolor, gouache, and oil. Come f... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Amy Stewart. I'm the author of six nonfiction books and six novels for every one of my books. I do a tremendous amount of research. The questions I get asked most often are. How do I go about doing all that research and how do I keep track of it all? So I'll answer the question of how I do my research in another class. But first I want to talk about how I keep track of it all. Because if you're about to dive into a big research project, whether it's for a book, a dissertation or some other kind of project, you'll be so much better off if you set up a good system of organizing at all before you dive in. So I keep track of all my research and Evernote. I also use over note to brainstorm book ideas to help me organize my plot and to help me keep track of ideas for other kinds of projects, like teaching classes in this class. I'm going to show you the specific features of Evernote that I think work best for writers . I'm gonna encourage you to set up in Evernote account of your own and play around with it and try to figure out now how you might capture and track and organize all those bits and pieces. If you experiment and try out some of these options ahead of time, it's much easier to put it into practice when you're ready to start researching. All right, let's go. 2. What Does Evernote Do?: I want to give you a general overview of the main features of ever note that are most useful for writers. The specifics of how you do each of these things is gonna be different, depending on whether you're using a PC or a Mac. The Web based version, an app on your iPhone or an app on your android phone. And also all of those details can change whenever they do an upgrade. So I'm going to show you generally how these features work. But when it comes time to do it for yourself, I promise it's all very intuitive, and it's very well documented on ever Notes website. Also, I pay a small fee to subscribe to Evernote Premium. I'm always happy to pay for a service that makes my work so much easier. But there is also a free version, and most of the features I'm gonna talk about are in the free version. But if you have a more premium, and that's also something that can change over time after I filmed this class. So instead, what I'm gonna do is post a link so you can check out the differences for yourself. Okay, so what is ever know do First of all at its most basic ever notice a piece of software and a nap that allows you to store and organize any kind of document. Word, Excel, pdf J. Peg video, audio whatever. And you can sink all that to the cloud and it syncs to all your other devices. That means that my research is always with me. It's on my phone. It's on a password protected Web site I can log into from anywhere. And of course, it's on my desktop computer at home. So right away it's an extra backup system, and that alone is tremendously valuable. If you're a writer, I hope you're already using an automatic backup system for everything you dio. But it's great to have this extra backup now, everything you save into ever notice called a note, whether it really is a note or it's a pdf for a photo or whatever it ISS, you can organize those notes into notebooks, and the notebooks can be grouped into stacks. I guess my brain has already organized like a 19 eighties era office, so I find the idea of notebooks and stacks to be really useful. But you don't have to use those If you don't want to, you can just leave your notes in a big pile. If that works for you, you can also create tags for your notes. And it's very easy to pull up every note that has a particular tag attached to it. I don't use the tag future very much, but here's an index of all my tags and how many notes I've categorised under each of those tags. But the best thing is that everything in Evernote is full text, searchable, and I mean everything were documents, pdf's. It reads the text inside of photographs. It can even read your handwriting. Well, maybe, I mean, I can't even read my own handwriting. But the point is, even if you don't want to use the notebooks and you don't want to use the tags, you can always do a full text search and pull up anything you've saved into Evernote. So at its most basic ever notes a platform for up loading and storing all your stuff and making it especially easy toe. Find that stuff again when you need it, but let's dig in a little bit more to how I use it. 3. How to Get Your Files Into Evernote: There are a lot of different ways to get your files into Evernote. One thing you'll notice is I go through. These is that I always emphasized the importance of adding notes or tags to these files as you're putting them into Evernote. I never just dump a bunch of stuff and Evernote and figure that all sort it out later. Organizing everything as it goes in really doesn't take that much longer, and it means that your research is always sorted and it works right and it's ready for you . So my favorite way to do this is to tell Evernote toe watch certain folders on my computer every time I save a file to that folder ever know grabs it and puts it into the notebook I've chosen. So I don't have to do anything. Evernote is doing it for me, and Evernote also grabs the file name. So as long as I have named the file something useful like Constance Kopp birth certificate , I'll easily be able to search for those words, and it will come right up and Evernote. Whenever I say something to that folder, this little window pops up to tell me that Evernote has grabbed it. And if I want Teoh, I can click on that and quickly add a little more detail or change which notebook it's going into or at a tag. You can just types and text into the note. Or you can even annotate right on a pdf. If that's useful, you'll also get a personalized email address so you can forward emails to Evernote. And that's useful for me whenever I'm doing interviews or asking questions of experts by email. So if e mails are a big part of what you do, that'll be useful. But Evernote also has integrations for Gmail and outlook that will make that even Mawr automated. One cool trick with email is that if you add certain things to the subject line, Evernote will automatically do even more with those emails, like if you add an exclamation mark in a date, Evernote will set a reminder. If you add an ad sign in the name of a notebook, Evernote will file your email in a particular notebook. And if you add a hashtag and the name of that tag, ever know will tag it for you. By the way, Evernote also integrates with Google Drive slack and other popular app, so you could easily save things into every note from other APS. Check out their website for a complete list, and also take a look at if this, then that for a bunch of other third party integrations, for instance, you can connect every note to just about anything from Instagram to Google Calendar to Spotify. I don't know why you would need to connect Evernote to Spotify, but you can do it. So I'm gonna post links to all those integrations, and you can check that out now. You can, of course, just write notes directly in Evernote or directly upload documents and files one at a time , and add your notes as you do it. For instance, if you upload a photo, you can add some notes and tags about that photo as you go. If you upload an interview recording, you can also add your notes or a transcript, whether their hand written or tight. When I'm traveling, I'm using the Web based version on my laptop, so I log in and upload things directly using the Web interface. A feature I use a lot has ever notes. Web clicker which is an extension for your browser. It'll grab screenshots, and you can add those to your files. That's really useful, because if you just save the link, the Web page could change later or it could disappear entirely. So when you find information online that you need, grab it right now, don't just save the link and assume it'll always be there and here again, you can add a few notes or a tag as you clip it, so you'll be able to find it later. Remember, after you upload something, it's automatically syncs with all your devices. Wherever you have Evernote installed, it's on the Web. It's on the phone. It's on your computer, and this is what makes Evernote so useful. Your research goes everywhere you go. 4. Using the App: the smartphone APP has a few more features that are really useful. The one I use most is the ability to photograph a page in a book or any kind of document, convert that to searchable text and add a couple of notes. So much of my research and ideas come out of books I'm reading, so I use this a lot. What's even better is Aiken snap a picture of the cover of the book or the title page so I can remember the source where I found that information without having to type it all in. This also works on computer screens and microfilm readers. If you're in the library reading academic journal articles on their terminal or you're doing research on microfilm, you no longer have to pay 25 cents a page to print out every page you need. Take it home and scan it. Just photograph the screen using the app, and it will be converted into searchable text. Save that text to a particular notebook or tag it or at a note and you're done. The APP also acts as a document scanner, so if you are working with paper files and you don't have a scanner you can scan with the camera function within the APP. I've done research before where I've had to meet and interview lots of industry people, and they were always giving me their business cards. The APP can scan business cards and can even automatically save that information into your phone's contacts. Another great feature, the APP, is that it records your location every place you create a note. So if your research involves visiting historical sites or touring factories or just being out on location and taking photos or audio notes to document what you're seeing and hearing , it can be really helpful to have every location pinpointed. I was once in a graveyard, taking a picture of the headstone of the person I was writing about. The next year I went back and I couldn't remember where her grave waas. But I was able to open up Evernote search for the photo because I had named it Constance cops grave. At the time I took the photo and the map navigated me right back to her grave. I really encourage you to download the app and just explore all the features that are right there on your phone 5. A Few More Useful Features: a few other features you might find useful, I mentioned reminders earlier. You can add a reminder, with or without a day to any note, and this could be really helpful. If you have research you need to follow up on, it's a good way to generate a list of next steps you need to take in your work. You can also create shortcuts for notes, notebooks or tags that you use all the time, and they'll show up right here on the computer version. And here on the smartphone version, you can share notes or no books with somebody else. And there's even a chat function built into Evernote if you want to have discussions about some of the items in there, and you can also make notebooks completely public, which might be useful. If you're teaching a class, for instance, I want to say a few more things about tags and notebooks. Even though I don't use tags very much, I can think of all kinds of ways they might be useful to writers. Now a note can only go into a one no book at a time, much like a physical notebook. You could make a copy of the note and put that in a different notebook. But then you have two versions floating around, and if you make a change to one note, you might not remember to make that change to the other note. This is why tags air so useful a note can have a bunch of different tags associated with it . For instance, I have a notebook with a bunch of information about messenger pigeons in it. It might be that there's a really great photo in this notebook that would be good for publicity purposes when my book comes out so I could add a publicity tag to that photo. Or I could just add a tag that says photo so that I could easily find all the photographs that are inside of that pigeon notebook. In my case, I'm writing a series of books, and some of this pigeon information might be useful in one book, but maybe not in another. So I can also tag that same photo with which book it's gonna be most useful for. Another way that tags might be useful is to keep track of any information that you think you're gonna put into your source notes in the back of your book or into a bibliography. You could just add a tag called bibliography or source notes, and then you can have all that information in one place. When it's time to start working on those things, You can also use tags for characters setting or any other characteristics of any kind of book project. Let me give you an example of how this might be useful. In my research, I might have certain notes about the particular kind of car a person drove. I could use over notes, full text starts and just search for the words car or Ford. But those air very common words. I might get hundreds of records when I search. So I might rather use a tag called Khar so that I'm very deliberately identifying the records that are about that particular car and not just about cars. In general, remember, Evernote is fully searchable. So if you need to find all your notes about, say, Miami, all you have to do is make sure the word Miami is somewhere in the title or the text of your note. But the way you can get into trouble here is if you have hundreds of newspaper clippings that were all sourced from Miami newspapers. In that case, the word Miami is going to show up in everything cause it's in the name of the newspaper itself. That's why you might rather use a tag to keep track of all your specific fun facts about Miami. So I encourage you to go into Evernote and create a few notes about anything at all. A grocery list, a recipe, whatever. Try out the notebooks in the tag, so you have a handle on how those things work. 6. My Favorite Evernote Tricks: I depend a lot on newspaper clippings for my research. These mostly come from websites like newspapers dot com, where I can clip the article, save it as a PdF to my computer in a folder that Evernote watches. And then it goes straight into Evernote. One thing I do with newspaper clippings is that I name the files in a very particular way. It's the year than a space than the two digit month, then a dash and then the two digit date. After that, I give a little information about the article remembering that I don't need the file name to include the name of the newspaper or the headline, because all that's gonna be scanned and searchable and Evernote. One thing I always add to the file name is if there's a photo in the article, because I do like to quickly be able to find photographs. Like I said, I could also use a tag for this. But here's where you can see why I named my newspaper articles. That way, if I sort by file name, I get all my articles in date order, and this is an incredible timeline of events that so useful to me. But, you know, sometimes a newspaper article will describe something that happened the day before, a week before or even a year before. For that matter, you could have all kinds of documents that tell you when something happened, whether that's a page in a book or a birth certificate or photograph, when I'm trying to figure out exactly what happened in my historical research and when it happened, what I do is I build a timeline, and to do this I create a separate note in Evernote. I write down what happened, and then I go to the source note that backs up that information. I right click on it to copy Internal Link, and then I paste that link into my timeline by using a short cut. The timelines right here and I can always get right back to it. What this does is it lets me build an index that tells me how it is. I know that each of these things occurred. I can always go back to the source where I found that information. You can see how this will be useful for any kind of writing where it's really important that you be able to go back to the source where you found a particular fact. Being able to build a table of contents like this is also really great for a class syllabus . Or if you're creating a talk or a workshop, I have a notebook filled with all the different exercises I do when I'm teaching writing workshops. Depending on the length of the workshop, I might go in and choose just a few of these. Or maybe if it's like a weeklong workshop, I want a whole bunch of them. So I can basically build a little syllabus for myself and click through to read all of my notes about each exercise or get links to videos that I want to show to the students or just anything like that. Another way I use Evernote is to keep track of books and articles that I need to read but haven't read yet, so this is a really useful way to use tags. You could create a tag called to Read or something like that, and then start compiling books and articles. Using that tag, you might snap a photo. The book. If you see it in a library book store. You might copy a link or just created note with the title and author. I use Evernote Web Clipper a lot with the out of copyright books that are available on Google books. That way I can record the title in the author, but I can also take a screenshot of the relevant section that makes me think I need to read that book. Finally, I use World Cat a lot. World Cat lets you search libraries all over the world. Often I'm looking for a book that's only held in two or three libraries anywhere, and I'm gonna have to request it through Inter library loan. So there's an email future here that allows me to send an email with all the records about that particular book. And I can just email that directly to Evernote. Or I could make copies link and email it the regular way or again. I could use the Web Clipper to grab that page in the in the Erle. But in every one of these cases, I would also make a quick note about why it is. I think I need to read that particular book. Otherwise I end up with a list of 100 bucks, and I have no idea what information I thought I'd be able to get out of each one of them. So if you already have a few records created an Evernote, try making a table of contents note with links to each of those just to see how that works . 7. Use Evernote for Ideas, Brainstorming, and Plotting: I'm sure you can see by now that you can also use over note. When you haven't done any research at all, you can use it just to keep track of ideas. Just open up the app when you're on the go and type or dictate and note. You can also use the app to photograph post. It's an index cards drawing so that even all your scribbles air in one place. This is especially useful if you tend to write down your ideas in a journal or a notebook that might also be filled with a little bit of everything else. I spend hours going through legal pads and old notebooks to try to find that great idea. I jotted down on an airplane a year ago, but I can't remember it anymore. And I don't remember exactly what no book I was carrying with me that day. You can also gather up photos or any kind of notes and look at them in a grid like a vision board Almost. You can also keep a list of books that inspire you clip anything you find on the Internet tag everything by character, seeing chapter location, whatever makes sense to you. I haven't even mentioned templates. But Evernote allows you to format your nose using templates, and they even offer some creative writing templates for outlining individual scenes or mapping out your characters. So I'm gonna put a link to those and to a lot of other templates in the notes. 8. Final Thoughts: I hope you can see what a great tool ever notice for writers. I honestly don't know how I ever did research without it. And it's been so useful for me over the years to be able to jot down a quick note when I'm on the go, if I wake up in the middle of the night with some crazy idea in my head and to be able to put that note right where it belongs, So I'm not scrambling around six months later looking for a post it every one of you will use ever notes features differently. Depending on the kind of project you're working on. I hope you'll give it a try and post a screenshot in the project section just to show us an example of one of your tags, your notebooks or just the kind of note you're taking. I'd love to see what you're working on, and I'm sure that your ideas for how to use it will help inspire other people who take this class. Also feel free to post your questions or comments in the discussion area, and I'll be sure to jump in and answer those. I teach a lot of other writing and our classes here. So I hope you'll check those out. And also come find me online. I send out a newsletter. I'm on social media. I'm easy to find and I would love to stay in touch with you. Thanks so much.