What is it?

Orson is an electronic research notebook – a tool for collecting data and evidence, documenting process, writing up research findings in interactive formats, and sharing knowledge with others.

It can be used privately or in a team situation. Its content can be shared online if desired. This makes it ideal for providing interactive supplementary material to published articles, or for creating a web resource for sharing research insights in a standard format, dispensing with the need to build and design a bespoke website.

In scientific research, electronic research notebooks (ERNs) are often published alongside research articles, to help make experimental results more transparent and easier to reproduce. Orson can be used in the same way, but it supports research work which is not necessarily experimental or lab-based. It is designed to be flexible enough to support different types of research – specialised outputs can be represented through the use of custom plugins.


Even if you don't have a specific research project, Orson is a really useful and flexible tool for taking notes, writing a journal, or collecting ideas – like a commonplace bookopen in new window of old.

Phases of research

There are three broad phases of research supported by Orson:

  1. Data collection
  2. Exploration of research theories
  3. Writing up of projects

You may choose not to document every phase of a project in Orson. For example, you may use Orson primarily for data collection, as a knowledge-base; or you may use it to document a project retrospectively through the use of interactive narratives.