As part of my class last fall in Narrative Inquiry, we were required to keep a research journal. Like any self-respecting geek, I kept mine in a WordPress blog that I am about to delete because it’s abandoned and getting non-stop spam at this point. While most of the posts were about class assignments, this is the one post I wanted to save so I can re-visit it and keep it up-to-date.
Last Revised in February 8, 2011
One of the things people who know me well will tell you is that I am a major Apple geek. If Apple put their logo on a pair of socks, I’d buy them and proceed to tell everyone I know how superior they are to Windows and Linux socks.
In terms of my work in Narrative Inquiry, I wanted to make mention of a couple of the tools I discovered (or discovered new uses for) over the course of the semester. Some of these I used for transcribing interviews, coding and reviewing notes, and outlining and diagramming major themes. Maybe these can help future students who want to use some digital tools in their narrative research.
A powerful application, Scrivener is used by writers for everything from lengthy legal briefs to crafting the great American novel. I’ve used Scrivener for the first pass of almost all of my academic writing since starting my PhD program in 2007. Version 2.0 was recently released and there is a Windows version in Beta as I write this. In my work for this course, Scrivener was an invaluable tool for transcribing audio files and putting together a final transcript.
I actually started coding my transcript in hard-copy form. What I couldn’t shake was the sense that pulling the codes together at the end was going to be a lot more work than it needed to be. Using my iPad and iAnnotate, I was able to use several colors of highlighter to identify key themes that I identified in the interview. Once the highlighting was complete, I was able to export the highlighted text as a plain text file for further analysis. The plain text file includes data on the color used to highlight each piece of text.
Once I had the plain text out of iAnnotate, the next step was to regroup like colors together into some kind of an outline. For years, the “non-pro” version of OmniOutliner was bundled on every Mac. I used it from time to time for class notes and the like, but doing narrative research I discovered it’s real power to import raw .txt files and simplify the process of cleaning it up and getting it in outline form. Not only does OmniOutliner save in its own native file format, it also has the capability to export outlines in the standard OPML format that can be read by other applications.
OmniGraffle Pro has the ability to read files that have been formatted in OPML and turn them into visual displays. At first this was just a way for me to see how far I could push my “all electronic” system, but I really liked the way that it looked. I found that it was nice to have a graphical representation of how the coding was looking.
I’m not sure if this will ever be helpful to other narrative researchers considering how to use their Mac to the best of its ability, but I found this to be a great starting point for my work in this class.
UPDATE 2/8/2011: PDF Expert
With a UI that is far superior to iAnnotate’s, PDF Expert only lacks one feature and that is the ability to export highlighted text to a plain text email. That being said, it’s worth a look if that is not the killer feature for you. I’ve downloaded and used it for class readings when I knew I wouldn’t have a reason to export length quotations.