The Best Tech to Improve Your Academic Research
BY ANTON LUCANUS
Digital tools have made everyone’s lives easier, and academics can benefit from a range of tools designed for learning, collaboration, or study. Many of them are free, and most support successful research, project organization, and management.
Here are a few examples of tech that could turbocharge your school research and help you to keep on top of complicated referencing or editing.
Learning how to appropriately reference materials in the right format can be difficult. Fortunately, there are digital tools to organize reference material and convert your citations into the right format each time you need to use them. This can save a lot of time when working with referencing and footnotes before a deadline.
Mendeley is one of the best-known tools for reference and bibliography management; it also has built-in social networking features for academics, if you choose to use them. Zotero is an open-source alternative aimed more at research alone, offering a familiar interface and optional syncing. Zotero is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux too.
Editing images is no longer the chore it used to be thanks to free desktop tools and cloud services. Today’s digital tools are also cheaper — and, in some cases, free.
Pixlr is a great choice for cloud image editing in a browser and so is Canva. If you’re familiar with tools like Adobe Photoshop or Pixelmator, you’ll find the basics easy to get to grips with, and you can use it on any computer for a quick sketch or image crop.
For accurate technical drawings or diagrams, Gliffy Diagram is even better. It’s essentially a cloud alternative to the ubiquitous (but expensive) Microsoft Visio. It’s not free but is available for a monthly student-friendly subscription fee.
Geo-Unlocking and Privacy
A VPN is a vital tool when you’re researching obscure or potentially sensitive subjects. When you’re connected to the internet through a VPN, you have much more control over what you can access and who can trace you as you browse.
For example, you may need to watch a geo-restricted video. With a VPN, it’s simple; just select an appropriate server location and the content will be accessible from anywhere. A VPN can also be very handy if you need to look at websites that could be considered politically or culturally sensitive in your part of the world. When you access these sites through a VPN, your traffic is encrypted to hide your real IP and location.
Make sure to do your research and choose a trustworthy VPN provider with a solid reputation and strong privacy and logging policies. There are hundreds of services out there, many of which can be unreliable. In some cases, disreputable providers can potentially share your browsing activity with third-parties, so it is imperative that you choose a trusted and reliable VPN.
While all over the world, you can find academic databases to suit your needs, both Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic provide valuable, searchable databases; Microsoft carries 48,000 journals, and will soon add well over 200 million papers.
Microsoft is proud of its semantic search engine on the Academic portal. It’s smart enough to understand the context of search terms, rather than simply using everything you type as a keyword. It clearly shows the author behind the work, along with their affiliated institution.
Google Scholar carries content from the world’s top journals, including Nature, The Lancet, and Science. It has a clever feature that allows you to link your Google account with article citations.
If neither of these digital tools carries what you’re looking for, you can test-drive DeepDyye free for two weeks. It pulls in results from Google Scholar, PubMed, and its own document library.
The business world has ensured that plenty of time and project management tools have cropped up in the cloud, and many of them make ideal project organization tools as well.
To visualize and organize your research, take a look at Trello, Google Keep, or Padlet. The latter is simple enough for school children, yet powerful enough to satisfy corporate teams. All will support collaboration, too, although Trello is probably the leader in that field.
Make sure to set your Trello board’s permissions and privacy appropriately; public boards routinely appear in Google search, which might not be ideal if you’re mid-way through your research project.
Develop Your Research Skills
No digital tool will do the work for you, but a good tool can certainly make a research project faster, easier, and sometimes cheaper. Armed with some of the tools highlighted here, your next research project should score your highest grade yet.
Byline – Anton Lucanus is the Director of Neliti. During his college years, he maintained a perfect GPA, was published in a top cancer journal, and received many of his country’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarships. Anton writes for The College Puzzle as a means to guide current students to achieve personal and academic goals.