Tuesday tip: New school year, new databases

Classes are coming—sorry, we can’t stop it from happening—and with it: homework. And with homework come research and the need to organize information. Three simple approaches to using a DEVONthink Pro or Pro Office database for school.

  1. Make a single database for your entire school year and create groups per class (and sub-groups per assignment, if desired).
  2. Make a single database per class. This allows you to keep your math research and homework separate from your English and your Art Appreciation homework. Again, you can use whatever other groups to keep assignments isolated too.
  3. Make a database per assignment. This may seem odd to some people because you could end up with a small database. The truth is, there’s no prize for having a big database, and no shame in having a small one. Maybe you wouldn’t use a single database for one test at the end of the week, but a term paper or a presentation may benefit from keeping its information separate to concentrate on.

7 Responses to “Tuesday tip: New school year, new databases”

  1. Sam says:

    Good suggestions. As a first-year PhD student in political science, I’ve made three databases. One is called “comps,” which contains all the articles, reading notes, assignments, and research I produce my coursework. I’ll want to have easy reference to this material when I take my two comprehensive exams. (These are 8-hour, take-home essay exams that will cover a wide range of issues in my functional subfields and require me to refer to a similarly wide range of literature).

    A second is called “prospectus,” and contains the reading and writing I’m doing on the side, with an eye toward my eventual dissertation. This is largely stuff that I haven’t organized well yet, but that I will want to be able to search through quickly and re-organize as my research ideas firm up.

    Finally, I’ve made a database devoted to my region of interest. This is a collection of newspaper articles, academic articles, reading notes, and other texts that are relevant to the area I specialize in but that I don’t necessarily expect to refer to in my research. If I want to pull up every reference I have to a particular place, politician, and so on, I go to this.

    So far, this system is working very well for me.

  2. jneumann says:

    Glad to hear it! Thanks for the excellent comments!

  3. John Gancz says:

    To help my son who has some organizational challenges I set up a database for each course, and use a project group for assignments. Notes are stored in one document for the course.

    It isn’t foolproof, but it works.

  4. jneumann says:

    Thanks for the comments, John. This is how I would personally approach it myself.

  5. Luc says:

    By over splitting into many, many databases, you loose however the nice automatic filing feature of DevonThink (at least in Pro Office).

    Having one database per school year make sense. Like for any physical filing system, having a database for all of your current activities make overseeing and planing easy. However, once something is completed, it should be moved, exactly like a filing cabinet.

    I found out that there are no disadvantages to having large databases with DevonThink and, as I said earlier, there are advantages in term of exploiting available tools 😉

  6. jneumann says:

    Remember, that we are offering options for people to explore. For some, your approach makes sense. For others, it won’t fit their needs or mindset. That’s part of the flexibility you find with DEVONthink. One size doesn’t have to fit all.
    (PS: Actually, there are disadvantages to letting your database get too large.)

  7. Luc says:

    “(PS: Actually, there are disadvantages to letting your database get too large.)”

    What are they, I still haven’t find them! My ongoing stuff database (only current projects) has 38 311 elements for 21.9GB…It is as snappy as my smaller ones.