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I'm doing some (thesis) research, subject unrelated, and therefor I started to gather sources and content regarding the subject. Now I'm stuck with about 20 A4 sheets full of content with all kind of similar content regarding the subject. Each story has similar content all has and some has some others don't, since some focus on different items than others do.

Now the problem is: What is the best way to filter unnecessary content and/or summarize this content to create just one holistic story?

Wondering how you would tackle such case or what would be the best approach!


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up vote 1 down vote accepted

One way would be to use an outliner (or Word in Outline mode).

The crude approach would be to:

  1. Enter the information as-is without trying to weed through it or organise it at all.
  2. Group similar information together.
  3. Simply delete things you're not interested in.
  4. Organise sections into some kind of structure.
  5. Summarise each section.

If you've made the notes, you'll already have some idea of what you're aiming at. Using this you should be able to streamline some of these steps. For example, don't bother entering information that you're not going to use.

Of course, if you prefer a low-tech approach you can do something similar with paper. You could copy the information onto index cards (or even photocopy your notes and cut up the copies) and then organise them using a similar process.

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I installed OmniOutliner yesterday, and honestly, it's great for this task! I kind of a bit ignored what you said, that order.. or perhaps not. Anyway, What I did was made a sort of table of content of what I wanted to write, and the bigger it would get, the more I would merge chapters, and make notes inside of them, to what I wanted to write there. I'm almost done and it really frees your mind, giving a simple, but clear overview of what you going to write in your final assessment. Thank you! – Sander Schaeffer Jun 13 '14 at 18:59

Similar to Kramii's outliner idea I'd suggest to use a mindmap to collect and sort the information.

Freeplane ( ) for example is a free tool which lets you do that and much more.

Collect all information - one "atomar" information per node (not more). Then you can

  • rearrange the nodes (Kramii already gave some very good rules for that)
  • collect similar nodes together

In research I assume you also want know where a special piece of information came from. You could

  • either use metadata (e. g. in node "attributes" in Freeplane) to document the source of the info.
  • or you could directly use Docear ( , also free and open source) - a fork of Freeplane - which is made for researchers and also incorporates a sophisticated system for extracting text and notes from PDF documents and keeping bibliographic references (even for each single note).

For more information, see the introductory video for Docear

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