Academic Writing with Atom

One of the go-to questions in any social interaction between PhD Students revolves around which productivity and writing tools you use for your research. I decided to write this post as I have found some less conventional tools for a legal scholar to be extremely useful.

First of all I use Atom which is a very flexible text editor which I also use for app development – for React with iLancaster, and for Ionic with Activity Network and Highshot. For academic writing though I use it as a Markdown editor. Markdown is a very simple markup language which allows your to easily create and format content.

Probably the most important tool for any researcher is a robust bibliography and research management program. I use Zotero, the free offering includes Cloud sync so when you import documents, once they have been indexed and a citation created in the given style (In my case, OSCOLA).

These tools become a ‘Productivity Stack’ when they to talk to each other. This Atom plugin which stores the bibliography in standard BibTeX format. In the configuration for the plugin I have it set up for Pandoc integration. Pandoc is a simple tool which allows me to output writing in Markdown to .docx or .pdf, among others.

When undertaking any kind of project, it is crucial to have a strict backup and versioning regime. For this purpose I use Git, traditionally used as a version control system for code. It is perfect however for creating a separate ‘branch’ if I want to explore new ideas, which can then ‘merge’ into the ‘master branch’. Equally, I am able to keep track of changes and easily roll back to an earlier point if I decide certain material is not relevant or simply needs removing!

To ensure I keep on track and follow my research/writing plan, I use Trello and use some ideas borrowed from the ‘Scrum’ project management methodology to manage my time and prioritisation of tasks and dependent processes.

Subscribe to keep up-to-date on this topic as I will soon be posting some scripts and code-snippets which I could not do without in my daily work. I hope this might help someone with their writing workflow, or at least inspire thinking away from the ordinary solutions for these tasks.

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