This article was written as a class assignment for EDF6475 Qualitative Research Methods at the University of Florida in Spring 2015.

Cheryl using her Purple Notebook. The Purple Notebook

The purple notebook was purchased in a little shop in Orio, Spain.  It lived in my closet for a few years, not knowing what its purpose would be.  Earlier this year, it was selected to accompany me on my dissertation journey.  Since that time it has lived in my backpack.  It contains notes about the articles I’ve read, research questions and musings, notes from meetings about my potential dissertation topic, etc.. 

The purple notebook is a general purpose notebook.  It is approximately 5” x 7”, contains about 100 lined pages, a pocket inside the back cover, an attached ribbon bookmark, and an elastic band to keep it all closed.  It is the perfect size for carrying to meetings and for keeping notes.  The back pocket has come in handy for keeping track of business cards. For fun, I’ve included a picture of me and my purple notebook, in my perfect reading and thinking spot.  Of course, in honor of my trip to Europe where the notebook was purchased, I am enjoying a Belgium Leffe Blond
beer.  (This also could be a very useful research tool.)

LiveScribe pen writing in a notebook LiveScribe Sky Smart pen

So far this is my favorite tool.  It is a smart pen that allows me to record notes and related audio.  The audio is then synchronized to the written notes.  The pen connects wirelessly to a network access point and uploads the notes and audio directly to my Evernote account.  Some of the features include: 2, 4 or 8 GB of storage space for 200 to 800 hours of recorded audio (mine has 4GB); Wifi and USB connectors; a replaceable pen tip; audio jack to listen to recordings with headphones; a digital display; and an ergonomic soft touch grip (“LiveScribe Sky WiFi Smartpen,”).

The pen has a microphone and a small camera in the tip.  The microphone records the audio, while the camera works with a special notebook or paper to record your notes. Each notebook is coded and numbered, so it can keep track of where your notes are physically located in your notebooks.  The notebooks also contain various control images such as start/stop recording, play, volume up/down, wifi login, etc.. To change settings you just touch the pen to the appropriate image on the page.  To play back your recording, you just touch the pen to the spot in the notes, and the pen immediately starts playing the recording from that spot.  The pen uses the camera in the tip of the pen to read the images on the page.  It is amazingly easy to use, and will be a great help in recording and organizing my research notes.

Screenshot of Evernote Evernote

Evernote works with the LiveScribe Sky Wifi pen to organize notes.  When the pen syncs on the network, it uploads the printed notes and the related audio for storage.  Using the coding on the notebook pages, it updates the pages in order as they appear in the notebook, even if you took the notes out of order.  This allows you to reproduce your entire notebook online.

Evernote can also be used to organize other research artifacts including clips from web pages, photos, hand written notes, etc. (“Evernote,”).  Evernote will synchronize across devices, including your smartphone, so that you have access to your research notes from any device. I am still learning how to use Evernote, including how to optimize the organization of notes from the Livescribe Wifi Pen, but so far it has been pretty easy to use.

Transcriber Pedal

I used the transcriber pedal during my first experience with transcribing an interview.  It was a life saver.  The pedal attaches to your computer via a USB port.  It allows you to start, stop, rewind, fast forward and adjust the speed of an audio recording using the foot pedal.  This is incredibly helpful when you are typing with both hands.  The ability to adjust the speed of the audio is also helpful.  I was able to adjust the speed of the audio to about 75% which allowed me to do a pretty good job of keeping up with the audio as I typed.  If I missed something, or needed to re-listen to a segment, I could just rewind and restart using the foot pedal.

The pedal came with a software package that added additional features, I believe even coding abilities, but I did not need to use any of these additional features in my project.  I would imagine they could be beneficial in a larger, more detailed qualitative research project.


Evernote.   Retrieved April 10, 2015, from

LiveScribe Sky WiFi Smartpen.   Retrieved April 10, 2015, from