Rat Race from the Archives: Time Saving Applications

This Rat Race post from 2011 was originally posted by Kat.


Academic research can be daunting.  Libraries replace the comforts of home as we sit for hours, leafing through publications for the perfect source.  Stress becomes us as we scramble to rediscover notes taken, not to mention the constant uploading/downloading onto flash drives.  As if graduate school isn’t hard enough, we create extra work that can overcome a project and become detrimental to our academic success.

Luckily, there are a few applications out there that may just make your academic endeavors easier to manage:

Zotero: I place sticky notes on prominent paragraphs and scribble shorthand onto loose-leaf pages so as not to forget important citations.  When all is said and done, I sit at my desk with piles of miscellaneous notes.  Where did I put that fantastic Dior quotation?  On what page is that close-up of a hoop skirt located again?  Zotero makes it easy to organize sources.  You can separate your notes into folders based on publication or location, such as a museum collection or archive.  From there, you can annotate or add photos so that your information is easily accessible.  Zotero allows you to create tags for your citations, simplifying your search for information on a specific topic.  Group libraries allow you to collaborate with other students or professionals as well (this would have been helpful while working on exhibitions at FIT, so that everyone could have access to the same useful sources).  This article provides a great tutorial on how to use Zotero and the benefits it provides for graduate students.

Google Documents: Graduate school is all about written research, presenting projects, and sometimes, working as a team.  You can create word processing documents, spreadsheets, slideshow presentations, forms and even drawings.  Your projects are saved to the memory of your Google account and can be accessed anywhere there is Internet.  This means you can start a project in the school library, then add some photos while at home, and edit it on your commute the day it is due.  What’s more, you can invite people to collaborate and work simultaneously.  No more patching together separately assigned sections into a paper.  No more trying to edit content at the last minute, or having a group member’s PowerPoint crash because it was not compatible within the Master copy.  One place, one project, and everyone has the chance to work collaboratively.  Google Documents saved my life when I was working on a group project but left the country for a week; we saved time and stress by doing our parts simultaneously on Google Documents.

EasyBib: I can’t believe how many people don’t know about this.  Bibliographies are the biggest gripe when it comes to academic research.  They often take the longest time to process because they must be meticulously formatted.  With EasyBib, you fill in the form with as much information as possible, and out comes a perfect entry.  Subsequent entries are then formatted together in alphabetical order and can be downloaded as a Word document or onto your browser.  And if that wasn’t convenient enough, EasyBib has teamed up with WorldCat, which produces the publication information for you based on what is available online.  Type once, click a few times, and you can have your bibliography done in one shot.  MLA formatting is free, with a subscription charge for APA and Chicago/Turabian.  It is also recommended to review your bibliography before turning it in, for possible spelling and order errors.

Heather discussed a few great applications and online resources in a previous article.  Her suggestions have saved me a lot of time and have preserved my sanity.  Read about them out here.

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