Sunday, 26 June 2011

My MA Dissertation planner and Microsoft OneNote :)


Today I am going to detail my MA Dissertation planner :). I have waited for a few weeks since I set up my planner to write this, because I didn't know if it was 100% set up, but since I haven't changed it in the last few weeks I think it will work for me :). I'm also going t o talk about how I'm using Microsoft OneNote in conjunction with it to plan my MA Dissertation!

I'm not the best person at planning research projects. I can have all the best intentions, but when it comes down to it, I either have hundreds of pieces of paper floating about my room, or little snippets of information in my rather disorganised brain. I HAVE TO make an effort to be organised for the most important research project of my life so far, my Master's Dissertation! This is why I have set up my MA Dissertation planner!

It is in a beautiful raspberry A5 Finsbury filofax :) I spent a few weeks researching which would be the best Filofax for me. I knew it had to be A5, there was no way I could feasibly write so much in anything smaller. The Finsbury was on my short list, mainly because it had 30mm rings. It's pretty packed already, so I don't think 25mm rings would have done at all! My other possibilities were the A5 Chameleon, or the Malden, but I'm happy with the Finsbury (although it does have some damage to it, I'll talk about this in my review in a couple of weeks).

I haven't really used it that much in the last few weeks since setting it up. Therefore, it is a bit plain- it's not 'lived-in' yet. I'm sure as I use it almost daily from September onwards, it will acquire slips of paper and trinkets etc! So far, in the inner side of the cover, I only have some pink and blue Avery tabs. I'll try to fill the rest of the pockets in with lovely cute things :)
In the envelope on the inside I have a cute card from my mum, an index card with my Dissertation title on it, and my thesis-cat picture :)

The first tabbed section is 'Progress'. In here I write what I have done so far to keep track of my progress, any deadlines I have to meet, and agenda pages etc. I also have to-dos. I use some pink and purple plain card (A4 cut in half with Avery top-tabs) to divide this up. It adds a bit more colour to it :)
Then I have my 'Plan' section. I really like this section. I basically have 1 sheet of A5 paper per section of my Dissertation, giving a plan of what that section includes. I add another piece of paper as the plan for that section expands. I can move it around and add to it as necessary; this is why I like this section and prefer using a ringed planner to a bound one :) It's kind of like a computer on paper, as I can add and move things as I need!
Then I have a section called 'Lists'. This is basically a catch-all section where anything in list-form gets filed. It doesn't need to be too structured, as during the day I would think "where is the X list" I would know instantly it is in the list section! It doesn't need to be too structured because then it would get too complicated.  The main lists I have in here are lists of abbreviations of journals I need to remember, a reference list of primary evidence I am using, that sort of thing. I use the 'address' pages that came with the Filofax for this, because I definitely do not have enough addresses to ever need to use them! They are quite good for lists as they are divided into columns, and have that nice box at the top where you can label the whole list.
Then I have my 'Ideas' section. This is just a section where I write down any quick things I need to research etc. This isn't a proper section, I just need somewhere wherever I am to capture these ideas or else I'll forget them. I have a pocket notebook for this too when I am out and about. Ultimately this section will get typed up into my MA notes word document. I have to remember this is NOT the place to write notes for my dissertation- if I did that the Filofax would either be 2 feet thick (quite literally) or I would need about 20 filos! My computer is the place for proper notes. This filofax is a PLANNER. I PLAN things in it! I have got to keep reminding myself of that!!
My next section is 'Meetings', for the notes of my meetings with my dissertation supervisor. This is a good section, and one I need to keep available when I'm sitting down working, because my dissertation supervisor gives me really good ideas of things to look up and I need to keep referring back to it. I will take my Filofax to dissertation meetings, so it is good that I have access to these notes for reference purposes.
Then I have a 'Techniques' section, which is a list of techniques, methods I need to remember when I am researching and writing, e.g. "Lead with the evidence..."
Then I have the A-Z section. I use this as a glossary: summaries of articles and books I have read and am going to use; summaries of primary evidence and its importance. This is a really good section as if I have something in my mind that I am trying to remember, all I need to do is quickly refer to the right letter in the back of my Filo and it's there for me to read!

My filofax and Microsoft OneNote!
Last night I remembered I had OneNote on my computer and realised how useful it could be for using with my Filofaxes! This is because I can make the same tabs, sections and sub-sections on my computer as I can in my Filofax! I can even colour-code!
I have created a OneNote notebook to match my MA Dissertation planner! This is great because I am not going to be able to take my Filofax with me to uni every day. On an average day, I have up to 5 heavy books in my bag, and I really can't fit an A5 filofax in it, let alone 2 because I'm also going to have an A5 filo for other MA things! In February I bought a netbook in order to have all my documents with me and the ability to sit down and write some of my MA or other essays if I have a (rare) 5 minute break between lectures and meetings. This way, I have everything in a very small netbook instead of countless notebooks! And this includes my MA Dissertation planner, as a OneNote document instead of in my heavy Filofax! I will bring my filofax to uni on some days, specifically those days when I have dissertation meetings but not much else, or days when I'm spending the whole day in the library only doing MA research.

I would love to take my MA Dissertation planner to uni everyday, but I will have to settle for being able to see it sitting pretty on my shelf every day!


  1. Hello! I've come here by way of Philofaxy, and I loved your review of your Filofax. I'm just switching to an A5 filo, but it hadn't occurred to me I will need the extra room for my MSc thesis (I start mine in November). Thanks for reminding me that I'll need to plan in space for it!

  2. Glad I could help! Your blog helped me choose the Lamy turquoise fountain pen, it's great!!

  3. I love this post! I am just entering my final year and have a dissertation to write as part of this; though obviouslt I'm going to need a new filofax first!

  4. thanks Pam! I'm glad I could help! I think a Filofax would be a great idea to help you in your planning and writing etc, unfortunately I only found out about filofaxes in March so it was too late to help me with my BA dissertation, but I hope it will help me a lot with my MA and PhD! and OneNote is an invaluable companion! I wholeheartedly recommend an A5 Filofax for your dissertation planner! Good luck with your degree!