DC reporting in, #12: Tools of the Trade – a) Text

tools of the tradeIn this post I want to talk a little bit about my work process, as I think that might be an interesting glimpse “behind the scenes,” so to speak – and because that it also something that I am dealing with and using pretty much every day. I’m not posting about it much here on G&G, but the reality of my time here in DC is that I am spending 8+ hours, 5-6 days a week, at the LoC, working. (Reading, scanning, quoting, … building databases).

The least useful tool I have is one that I bought especially for this project, ironically enough – and not because it isn’t doing what it is supposed to do, but simply because technology has surpassed it: When I was gathering material for my PhD the first ScanPen I owned was sometimes (so it felt) worth its weight in gold – reliable, quicker than typing a quote into the text editor by hand, and far easier on those carpal tunnels as well. I bought it back when I was writing my second Master’s Thesis, IIRC, and so it’s been with me a good long while and still been a trouper and working fine on my old computer back in Flensburg (which used to run XP) … but alas, not under Windows 7 (which my laptop runs on), as the software to support it wasn’t being developed anymore – and the software for the newer ScanPens was not compatible with it. ‘Fair enough,’ I thought, ‘I recon technology has been marching on, and the new ScanPen is probably far advanced from my old one. And this thing has ben super useful … .’

And so I bought my second ScanPen – the current model. Which does its job, indeed, better than the old one … but not as well as an app for my phone that cost me ~10% of what the ScanPen did.

So, instead of scanning text line-by-line with the ScanPen, I am now scanning text pretty much page-by-page with TextGrabber. It’s not as good at recognizing letters and symbols, overall (quotation marks often don’t show up or are wrong, an its line breaks are atrocious), but it is still a faster process to edit what it produces than scanning the text line-by-line and then checking that for mistakes would be.

My process is: scan the text – fix the mistakes – email it to an email address dedicated to this purpose (title of email = “Author – Page”) – open email – c/p into Citavi.

It’s a bit of a roundabout approach, maybe, but it also means that I am building an emergency fallback archive in the form of these emails (which, once dealt with, get sorted into folders named for the Author & Book the text came from) in case I ever lose my Citavi archive and all its backups (I hope not!) – and that I get to look at text a second time and then sort it into categories and assign tags in Citavi*. What I also like is that TextGrabber has the option of keeping the images it scans from (which I am also sorting into dedicated folders), so if I ever need to go back because I maybe did not write down if some misspelling was, indeed, [sic], I can go and check. I try to be very good about doing it the first time round, but backup is backup … . And if there’s one thing I learned from my PhD, then it is that no matter how careful you are, there will be a misspelled word in a quote somewhere eventually – without you knowing if it’s your mistake or not. (Or you might have a long quote that says it’s from “page 15f,” … … … without any note where the page change happened. So if you want to use only one sentence from that quote … yeah. Good luck with that. These days, I Always Put The Page Break In. One learns … from re-ordering 5 interlibrary loans, just for checking those page breaks).


It also means that I can do the scanning with my phone and leave my laptop in my room, and then come back in the evening and sort out my quotes of the day. And (real reason): not drag the laptop to some evening event or other. I do take the laptop with me almost every day anyway, but it’s nice to know that I don’t have to do it to be an efficient collector of quotations.


One response to “DC reporting in, #12: Tools of the Trade – a) Text”

  1. Interesting. I’m reminded long ago of when I got my first desktop scanner with an early example of text grabbing software. Results were VERY mixed, but it seemed like magic when it worked even for a few lines. And now it’s a phone app! I can see you gotta be soooo methodical and organised tho!
    But cool about the photo for back-up. Belt AND braces saves embarrassment on that day when the belt was not enough… :-)

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