These are tools that I find useful in my own work or research. This section is intended mostly to provide a quick list of ideas to new students as they begin thinking about what might aid them in their studies. I will continue adding tools here as I encounter them and / or find them useful in my own work. Please note that all trademarks and copyrights for the included products are owned by the respective companies.
The Evernote tagline is "Remember Everything" and it really does help to deliver on that promise. Evernote is a combination note-taking and storing application with some great features to help categorize your notes using either notebooks and / or tags that are then easily searched. You can quickly and easily add images, web pages, emails, and whatever you can think of in addition to basic text editing functionality. Evernote will even scan through the images and other documents (if you want) so that everything is searchable. As a bonus, Evernote is available on most platforms (including the Mac, web, and iPhone which are the ones that I use) and synchronizes between them all. You can also share your Evernote libraries selectively with other folks who need to see or edit them.
I use Evernote for almost everything at this point. On the work front, I'm using it to keep track of design decisions and brainstorming (including images of the whiteboards), take notes in meetings, track my to-do lists for everything, and keep a list of readings and technologies to follow up with (to name a few). On the personal side of things, I keep track of other to-do lists, travel information, recipes, and my grocery list.
Evernote is also Free, though there are some bonuses for those willing to get the premium account, and I find it is well worth it.
Evernote is also extensible, and a number of 3rd party developers have put together some pretty neat solutions. My favorite at the moment is EgretList for the iPhone. EgretList is a to-do list manager that pulls in anything that has a checkbox from your Evernote library into a set of easily organized to-do lists that can be grouped by urgency, location, project, or whatever you can think of.
More often than you realize as an academic, you will be representing data or other information. This might come in the form of a simple table, a straightforward graph, or a more elaborate visualization of data. Visualization of information is an incredibly difficult and yet outstandingly important task to focus on doing correctly. Not only does a good visualization convey information more clearly, but also in many cases more accurately.
If you click around my site you will notice that many of the articles, presentations, and projects are “tagged”. These tags are also listed on the right side of the site to help people navigate quickly to all of the entries that relate to a particular topic. Tags are common in blogs, wikis, and other websites. Hashtags play a similar role on Twitter (e.g., I use #p544 to identify tweets related to p544, a class that I teach). These tags all serve a similar role to the keywords that are often presented in an academic journal or conference submission website–they help to quickly and easily identify the broad categories that a work relates to.
At the simplest level, Twitter is a tool that let’s you publish short notes (140 characters maximum) that can include images and pictures. People who choose to “follow” your twitter feed can read your “tweets” whenever you post them, and you can of course follow other people’s twitter feeds. For the rest of the details, I suggest you check out their web-page.
There are many other tools that also let you post information and / or follow the information that your friends and colleagues are posting, including blogs and facebook. I currently use all 3 (you can see the twitter feed I use to discuss my courses: here ). Furthermore, the importance of all of these social networking tools are discussed widely by many knowledgeable people, so I won’t reproduce that here. I will however offer three suggestions that I believe bear repeating:
This book is indispensable for anyone who wants to publish in the majority of education or psychology journals since they typically require APA (American Psychological Association) style. Even if you aren’t interested in doing that, though, it may be quite helpful as they have sections about how to write clearly and concisely, how to present your results well, and how to address issues such as bias or describing the population you are studying in a respectful manner.
If you are like me, then you are constantly reading academic documents on the computer, and many of these were scanned in. This makes it difficult to annotate, copy text for a quotation, or otherwise manipulate the document in the ways that support scholarship. Enter Optical Character Recognition. This is a general class of technologies that can look at images with words in them, figure out where the words are, and then convert them into a format that you can edit. My current tool of choice for converting papers from images to text is Adobe Acrobat, though there are many alternatives. The documents that I typically convert are already in PDF format, and so it is incredibly convenient to run the OCR feature within Acrobat and then annotate the paper using Acrobat, Preview, or Skim.
Most people who use video for analysis think of QuickTime only as an option for playing back their video. However, QuickTime also has a host of built in features that can be quite helpful and avoid the need to use a high-end video editing tool, particularly if you have QuickTime Pro. I still use other tools, but for quick edits and the like, it is far easier to take care of them right inside of QuickTime. Specifically, QuickTime let’s you trim a movie or combine movies (sequentially or on different layers), export the entire movie or just the audio track, save the movie or audio in a number of different formats, watch only a selected section (this is particularly useful when you are reviewing a small section in the middle of the video), jump directly to a specific point, add bookmarks, and more. If you want to edit subtitles by hand, that is also an option, though I find Inqscribe to be much easier for that.
No joke, having a notebook and pen handy at all times while conceptualizing my dissertation was far more valuable than you might think. It was good for me socially as well because when an idea struck, I could jot it down rather than spending the next few hours obsessing over it. Of course, an iPhone or other PDA can help you take notes as well, but for me they are no replacement for the feel of a flair pen on real paper. You just need to be sure you don’t lose the notebooks!
A big part of my research involves video data which means that I spend a lot of time transcribing video for analysis and to use as examples in presentations. To help with transcription I use InqScribe which let’s you transcribe while viewing the video. Two features I particularly like: 1) it can embed a timecode which you can then use to jump back to that point in the video; and 2) It will automagically export subtitled quicktime files for you (A MUST for presenting video).
Zotero is a free, open source, reference manager that works as a Firefox extension (making it cross-platform). Each version is better than the last, and while I don’t use it exclusively, I find it incredibly helpful while browsing for articles. It makes it incredibly easy to grab all of the citations off of a web-page such as a google scholar listing, and boasts many of the same features as Endnote including pdf storage and Word integration. It’s not yet my primary reference manager, but it may be soon!
Incidentally, if you are already using Zotero, you can use Zotero to grab citations for any articles that I have a PDF for simply by viewing the page on which they are listed.