A tried (once) and true (at least for me) thesis-writing workflow

I am done. All defended, sealed, delivered. Having accrued some experience in how to make all possible mistakes in writing a thesis, I thought I should write a post on the workflow that I eventually came up with. I wasted 20% or more of the total time invested. Here's my tried (once) and true (at least for me) ideal workflow for writing a thesis. 

1. Have a clear outline or list of core ideas. For me, thinking of ideas was more useful than doing an outline because I didn't have to commit to the final order of the outline until later. Examples of core ideas are: "Humans have limited willpower" and "The Service Design Community of Practice has started to write about behavior design".

2. Whenever you read always, immediately type your notes on a computer and save days and days of work. If you do not do it right away, you will have to come back to it. I understand you might do some exploratory reading in the beginning, but after the moment you set up your core ideas always type your notes up. 

3. As you are reading and typing, keep asking yourself: is this quote answering one of my core ideas? If not, it is useless to you. Leave it alone. This is why you need to start by knowing your core ideas. Because otherwise you will write down things that are interesting, fascinating, beautifully put but of no relevance for your thesis.

4. Now the question is: what to type? You should always write a. The exact quote (except if you know, I guess because you got a signal from a higher power, that you will not use it as a quote but a paraphrase) b. The paraphrasing of the quote. If you can do it as you are making the note, you are saving untold amounts of time. I was not always able. c. The page in the book. I lost so much time on this, just in the small number of times I did not register the precise page in the book. d. The APA style (or whatever style you agree with your thesis chair) in-text citation. So for example, “Quote from Kahneman, bla, bla, bla" (Kahneman, 2011, p.302)“. This way when you are putting everything together, you already did this. I recommend learning how to do citations on the style you are using before ever starting taking notes of anything. Which alas, is not what I did.

5.  Digital or paper? Many prefer to touch and *be one with the text*, but this might be the moment in which e-books make more sense. In some cases, I even doubled-up by checking out the book from the library and buying an e-book. As your read above, I am proposing you have the complete note, including an exact quote on your computer as you are reading. I will argue that having an e-book on your computer will let you copy-paste the quote into whatever word processor app you end up using.

6.  Now, on how to organize the notes. Try Gingko, (https://gingkoapp.com). It is a horizontal outlining app. Gingko grows horizontally, and you use cards that you can move around. The way you use it is you put all of your core ideas in cards (you can move them around later). Then, write your complete note (see tip 4) as a child of the particular core idea. The beauty of using this method is that when you finish you export the Gingko board, and there it is! You will have your literature review almost done and in the correct order. The only thing left will be writing text to link all the notes with introductory texts. This method works for all chapters, of course, but is most useful for a literature review. 

7. Organize your sources. You will scan the literature. You will skim through many books. You will not necessarily use all of them (see tip 3). If you do not organize your sources, you will go crazy. Below, a link to my database of sources.  I always go for more rather than less, but of course, you can adjust this database (https://goo.gl/HwPf7E) to your particular level of type-a-ness. 

8. Learn how to use the paragraph styles in Word and set up your paragraph styles so that later you can make changes to the styles and not to the text. Paragraph styles are the styles of the body copy and the different levels of heading. The knowledge will save you time and is important when doing your lists of figures and your table of contents.

9. Use grammarly.com to check for good grammar and plagiarism. It also has a vocabulary enhancement feature that keeps you from repeating words and suggest substitutions. It is a paid service but it's worth is for the short time you will be writing.

That is all. Good luck!