How to . . . Organize Your Project with Online Tools, Part I

Kara Hisatake's picture

How to . . . Organize Your Project with Online Tools, Part I

By Kara Hisatake and Katie Trostel

(H-Net is receiving no compensation for reviewing the product featured in the blogpost below).


Have piles of articles stacked haphazardly on your desk or cluttering your digital desktop space? Have lots of information for your dissertation chapters but aren’t sure how to organize them? We’re fairly sure that if you’ve been in grad school you’ve at least heard of online tools like Zotero and Evernote for organizing your projects. In this blog post, we’d like to take the time to discuss some examples of good online tools and how to best utilize them to keep things organized and orderly. (Be sure to check out our previous blog post on AirTable - a platform that allows for “flexible” and creative spreadsheet creation.)

There are a lot of online tools out there so we decided to split this blog post into parts. This first post, Part I, will focus on a couple of the most popular and probably most-used tools.

First, Evernote ( has been a popular note-taking app for a good several years now. The great thing about it is that you can use it on your phone and computer and if you like using Google Drive, it connects directly with Drive (but is far more user-friendly on your phone). It’s great for on-the-go situations, especially if you’re in an archive somewhere and need to take some quick notes to store on a device (Kara recommends this in particular). You can upload PDFs to your “note,” as well as annotate your files and add tags to easily search--some folks don’t recommend doing this, but if you like all your files in one place that is an option. The best thing about Evernote is, of course, its note function--use this for brainstorming, meetings, research notes, class notes, and organizing all of this research--and is also good for saving clips from the web. Evernote is always easily accessible as long as you have internet access--it does not require hard drive space so is easy for transferring notes (or if your laptop ever crashes or gets stolen, unfortunate but real-life events).

There has been a lot of excellent examples about how academics use Evernote already published via the web. See some of the best examples below:

From Ohio State, Hacking the Thesis:

Evernote for Scientists:

A blog on Evernote for Academics:

5 reasons to use Evernote for Academic Research:

A researcher’s Evernote on how to use Evernote for Academic Research:


Secondly, there’s Trello ( According to the site, “Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process.” Katie has used Trello to organize group conference proceedings, pre-workshop activities, and to easily share PDFs and files with a group. However, Trello would also be ideal for keeping track of the physical PDF files, links, images, books you’re interested in reading, and other resources you might use for each chapter of your thesis. You can also easily create “to-do” lists, and rearrange the virtual “boards” as your project evolves over time.

An example of how Trello might be used as an organizational tool from Katie’s workshop:


There are also a number of other blog posts on how this platform might be utilized to keep track of the many moving parts that make up your dissertation or thesis project. Check out some of the links below:

From Thesis Hub:

From DoctoralWritingSIG:

From GradHacker:


How do you organize your dissertation or other big projects? Are there other tools we should add to our resource lists? We’d like to hear your experiences and ideas for keeping things in order.

Email us, ( or join in the conversation on Twitter (hgradlist).


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