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How To Keep Track of All the Papers You’re Reading While Working from Home

Hello people! This morning I shared some information on how I organize journal articles in an Excel spreadsheet to make them easier to find later. The tweet absolutely blew up (by my standards), so I decided to write up a post that expands on some of these ideas. 

1. Keep it Simple. Make a new file (or sheet) every time you start a new project, and also every time you start a new paper. The bulkier the spreadsheet gets, the harder it will be for you to find all those carefully organized thoughts. I have found that it saves me the most time to just start a new file for every manuscript, because then you can name each file accordingly. However, it can also be really useful to have one file per project and each individual manuscript as a separate sheet. This also helps if you want to re-use a specific citation because you can easily figure out where it is saved!

2. Header Lines. These are really important! It took me ~3 years (total guess) to figure out what the most useful headers were. Also, make sure you freeze that row! I found that it was useful to have individual columns for both the first author and the corresponding author. I realized that the corresponding author made a huge difference in figuring out what research came from the same groups. This also has an added bonus of helping you learn who the big players in your field are! The other column that I find most helpful is keeping track of whether or not you have cited this article in a particular paper or project. I think this is useful because sometimes even the most interesting of papers just doesn’t fit once you write it all out. 

3. Journal Abbreviation. This column was a direct result of EndNote frustration. There is always at least one incorrect citation that you will catch and one that you will not. Most often, I have found it comes from the journal abbreviation. Knowing the proper abbreviation can save you some time. Also, learning the common words and their abbreviations can save you some time. Also, if you ever need to type out a quick citation to share in an email or chat, this is really useful.

4. DOI. Again with the sharing! I have learned the hard way and the stubborn way that sharing the DOI is the fastest way to find an article someone recommends, unless you have the URL. However, I have also recently learned that some subscriptions change the URL, so you may still be creating work for some people without knowing it!

5. Adapt. This was neither my first nor my second draft of this spreadsheet. Paying attention to what works and what doesn’t for you specifically is going to be important. When I first started out, I made the columns similarly to my citation manager. Logically,  if the citation manager was working for me, then I didn’t really need to make the spreadsheet, did I? That’s true, but also not the point. The point is that you have to start somewhere, and you don’t need to finish where you started. 

Do you have any other tips and tricks on managing articles? Let’s share with each other and get through this journey together!

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Review: Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl

Title: Things We Didn’t Talk About When I was a Girl: A Memoir

Author: Jeannie Vanasco

Rating: 2/5 stars

Review: I wanted to like this book so much, unfortunately it upset me a lot. Despite my low rating, I cannot state enough how important this book is. For Jeannie Vanasco to tell us her story, of her experiences takes an exceptional amount of courage and strength. Furthermore, it’s so important to have a story like this out in the world because in everything she grapples with she is not alone.

The part that sticks with me the most, and ultimately the reason I can’t justify rating this book any higher, is that the book was very stagnant. By that I mean it started where it ended with no ups or downs in between. While I understand that it’s a work of non-fiction, I was looking for more. I even began thinking about moments in the book that would have made it more impactful. At this point I realized that even though Vanasco addresses mental illness and going to therapy, she also states explicitly multiple times that she refused to talk about the assault in therapy because there were other things. I’m sympathetic to her going through a ton of shit in her life but this was a book about dealing with her assault.

The second most sticky feeling was that the title of the book and the content of the book never matched. The only thing I can think that she “didn’t talk about” was calling it rape (because it didn’t fit the definition of rape at the time that it had occurred). She admits to confessing groping of her high school newspaper advisor to her mother (who ultimately told her father). She admits that she told a few people about the assault from her friend. So what exactly did she not talk about? It’s probably not an important point to dwell on at all, but it is really upsetting, because I felt mislead. I thought the book was going to be her admitting something for the first time after 15 years, and in a way it was. It was the first time she really tried to deal with what happened. On the surface level though, she talked about it all.

Ultimately, I won’t even be going back to this book. It has stuck with me, even if it is in a negative way. I truly appreciate the author’s willingness to share her story and write what happened from her perspective. I would not have picked up this book if I didn’t think it was an important story to share. I applaud her for what she did and I truly think it’s important for us to read memoirs like these to understand how people are affected by sexual assault.

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Off the Shelf

Work has been so busy lately and I haven’t had much time to enjoy the things that I love doing in my spare time. Going into the new year, I knew this was coming. I couldn’t fully prepare myself for it but it wasn’t a surprise. Now that things are winding down (my calendar is getting progressively more empty as we move forth in February!), I am really thinking about all the things that I didn’t get to do or enjoy. Although I feel like I kept a pretty good balance with most things, I know that there are two things close to my heart that just didn’t get enough attention: my husband and my knitting.

I’m writing this on a pseudo-mental health day. I’m still in my office, but I made the chose to stay away from the lab today. I even worse lab inappropriate clothing (read: a skirt!) to prevent temptation. I’ve also just finished editing a manuscript that I’ve been telling myself I’ll finish for months. I’m not exactly proud of letting all of my excuses win, but I am very proud for never giving up on it. 

Putting something on the shelf doesn’t have to be the end of it. All of those knitting projects I’ve started and haven’t finished? They’re still waiting for me. These manuscripts I haven’t pushed out as quickly as I would have liked? The research and the data is no less important. The time with my husband I haven’t spent? Well, actually I have. We just haven’t done all of the things we would normally do. We’ve had a much more low-key relationship recently and that’s okay too. 

Beautiful things take time, and sometimes you need to allow yourself time to create beauty. Other times, you need to suck it up, put your big girl/boy pants on and go after it because time keeps moving forward whether you’re working on your projects or not!

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The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

Title: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

Author: Kelly Harms 

Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary: Single mom of two adolescents, Amy Byler takes off to New York for a librarian conference just as her ex-husband, John, returns from Hong Kong to spend time with the kids. Amy eventually spends the summer in New York rather than her Pennsylvania home and her adventures (“Momspringa!”) are catalogued for us readers.

Best: I loved the way every chapter started with an entry from Cori’s (Ann’s daughter) summer reading journal. I appreciated the alternative insight, as well as the wise-beyond-her-years insight of an adolescent. It was truly my favorite part of the novel to listen to (when I was on audio) or read (when I was on my Kindle). 

Worst: I don’t really think there was a worst part to this novel. I felt like the story was well-developed and flowed easily. The only “complaint” I have is that I didn’t feel like every character was well-developed. Although they all appeared throughout the novel (with the exception of the blind dates), it felt like something was missing. For example, at no point before the last 5% or so of the book, the race of the female characters was revealed. It seemed out of place and somewhat unnecessary that late in the game. 

Favorite Quote: “Amish rumspringa ends with a big decision. Go home or never turn back. I’m not sure how your momspringa is any different.” This quote resonated with me because I feel like the novel was written in such a way (perhaps intentionally) that it didn’t seem like a big decision was really coming. Amy was just out having fun and was going to go back to her children and her job when it was time and that would be that. At this point in the novel, Amy finally realized how unrealistic that was and sprang into a frenzied, illogical form of action. 

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Mocktail Mania

Being pregnant certainly puts a damper in all things drinking, so I’ve recently spent some time investigating the mocktail scene to keep live interesting. The best part is that it’s currently Dryuary (Dry January, No Alcohol January…) so that means recipes are easy to find right now! Mind you, this is never the attitude I took before. It’s my birthday, and as such Dry January has never appealed to me.

My favorite is this margarita recipe, I have yet to remember to salt the rim of my glass, which I’m sure will only enhance the experience!

  • 1/2 cup limeade
  • 1/4 cup sparkling water- lemon flavored
  • 1/4 cup sparkling water- lime flavored
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • Ice

My second-favorite was  1 part cranberry juice, 2 parts orange juice, and 1 part ginger ale. The fizzy aspect is something I definitely find key to the experience! Also, we garnished this with an orange slice which makes it feel just a little more sophisticated :). After drinking quite a bit of these, we realized that really you could use any ratio of the three ingredients to your liking. I love it when things are versatile!

Do you have any non-alcoholic drink recipes that you swear by? Let me know in the comments!

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Re-Read Your Favorite Book This Weekend

I have never regretted sitting down to re-read a book. The bonus is that I almost always read it faster the second time than I did the first time, i.e. I could read it in a weekend. Granted, I don’t read many books over 400 pages and almost none over 500 pages, so there is that inherent constraint. The bottom line is, regardless of how long it might take you, re-reading your favorite book is certain to bring you joy.

You can re-read your favorite book when you’re in either a good or a bad mood. It’s sure to make a good mood better and to turn a bad mood around. Plus, with the availability of ebooks and audiobooks, particularly via your local library or Amazon, you can have this book at your fingertips everywhere you go to maximize your reading time. 

One of the books I’ve re-read a few times is Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. I think the first time I read the book was around fourth grade, and I actually read it before Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps because I read it first, or perhaps because it is better, I’ve always loved it. Re-reading it takes me back to the simpler time of childhood which is completely unmatched. In fact, many (but certainly not all) of my favorite books are favorites because of the place I was in when I first read them, more-so than the book. Yet another reason re-reading books can bring you happiness. 

Drop a comment of your favorite book- whether a recent one or your earliest memory. I’d love to hear them!

(Featured Image: Janet Evanovich, Stephanie Plum Series #11, Eleven On Top)