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Research Tool Review

5

March 17, 2015 by kdaly3

I have reviewed the following tools: Zotero, Google Docs, Evernote, and Coggle.

Zotero

I’ve been using this resource for a long time, and it has vastly improved the way I do research. Before discovering this tool, I would often bookmark pages and organize them by topic, but eventually my bookmarks would become overcrowded and get mixed in with personal bookmarks, which made searching for and organizing resources difficult. Also, bookmarking pages doesn’t allow me to create bibliographies, which Zotero has allowed me to do. Although it as its flaws in terms of the creation of bibliographies and misinformation (you always need to double check its work), it has opened up more time for me to do research than looking over the Chicago Manual of Style. Though the style guide is also a great resource (especially because it is also an online resource), it can take up a lot of time that could instead be used for research. Zotero, which can be easily downloaded and is compatible with Microsoft Word, has opened up the casual way I now do research, especially for my initial research of topics. Another technical flaw that I have not been able to overcome as of yet (and I’m unable to tell if they are the software’s fault or my own) is the fact that bibliographic citation within Word does not always work properly. But in the grand scheme of things this is just a small complaint. I appreciate that the software is completely free to use, and it is a relatively reliable resource in spite of its minor flaws. This is a resource I see myself using beyond the scope of my graduate career for projects that involve potential publication. This tool acts to help ease the burden of research so that researchers may spend more time on research and less time doing bibliographic information.

Google Docs

This is another resource I have been using for a long time, primarily in my work for the Planning Atlanta project, as well as various group projects. It is also a great resource for when I’m away from my home computer and I need to access documents or research materials from another computer and I don’t have the information saved on a flash drive. I have very little to compare this research tool in conjunction with prior research methods since I have been using it for so long (all throughout college at least) but I can imagine this would have been useful in high school classes where collaboration is necessary. This was a resource that is intended towards sharing information and collaboration across different platforms, and it is a successful program with a relative ease of use as long as you are familiar with Microsoft Office. The only disadvantage I have seen is certain discrepancies between Microsoft Office and Google Docs. Most often it occurs when I’m using Excel: certain elements of Excel are not the same as the sheet options in Google Docs, making it difficult to carry over my knowledge from one to the other.

Evernote

I primarily use this resource for my work at the Brown Media Archives for when I blog about my research or preservation topics. Often, when the media archivist I work with explains what a type of film decay looks like I take a picture of the item, but it is often difficult for me to differentiate between the various pictures I take in comparison to the types of decay she describes them as after the fact. With Evernote, I can take a picture of the object, in this case decayed film reels, and I can send the image to Evernote and take notes on my phone. I also downloaded Evernote on my laptop so I can access these images on my laptop when I start to write about these materials. I could also potentially use it as a to-do list maker, but I’ve found that doing this digitally is not the most beneficial to me. In fact, I’ve found that many of the options are not of great use to me in my research, but I can see why people may want to have those options in their research. For instance, you can take various types of text formats and add them to Evernote, as well as creating handwritten notes. I find this resource to be particularly useful when using archives if you want to keep images (taken on a phone) and your notes together.   Like Zotero, it is free to use (and you can download it on a variety of devices), so it is a great resource for multi-use, broad-based note taking for researchers. The ability to use it on different devices is similar to Google Docs, but as far as I know, and correct me if I’m wrong, there is no ability for collaboration (merely something called ‘Work Chat,’ which I have not used, so I’m not sure if it is different than merely email or other messaging programs), nor is there the ability to access this information on devices that do not have Evernote downloaded on them as Google Docs and Coggle have the ability to do.

Coggle

This is a relatively new resource for me, but it has helped me in every research endeavor I’m working on this semester. There is a different research project that I need to undertake for all of my classes, and Coggle has helped me organize my thoughts when faced with multiple projects, especially if they relate to each other. I am working on separate projects about Joel Chandler Harris and The Atlanta Constitution, and Coggle’s color coding has helped me keep track of what information I can use for both projects and what information only applies to a particular class. It was relatively easy to figure and configure maps with minimal instruction from the program, and all it requires for sign-up is through my Google account. Though Coggle is limited in its abilities, its primary purpose has somewhat changed the way I map out ideas, which I never done by creating a physical map. It also would likely be less useful and convoluted if it tried to do more than mapping. Though it was somewhat useful in my research, and physically mapping things out hasn’t done any harm to my research process, but it also seems like an unnecessary step for me personally. Though I don’t map things out physically in my research, the system I use (outlining textually) works better for my own thought process, though I can see how this method might be useful for others who require visual mapping. It is especially useful as it is a software attached to Google, so I can access it from any computer and share it with others. I also think this is an important digital tool because it is easy to modify and change the direction of different clouds/thoughts easily, which is not something that can be easily done on paper.


5 comments »

  1. chuber1 says:

    Kate- I am always curious about the bugs that people encounter, so what is being a problem for you with Zotero? I was also interested to read about how you use Evernote. I did not consider how being able to integrate pictures in notes would be extremely useful for a research, especially when dealing with deteriorating materials. Unlike you I find the to do lists one of the most useful features, what made it less than useful for you in work? I also agree that Coggle is useful for organizing ideas early in the research process, but after that, in the case of most projects, its usefulness greatly diminishes.

    • kdaly3 says:

      Whenever I try to use Zotero through Word, completed citations haven’t shown up; instead, it shows up on the document as if I already used the citation within the document. However, whenever I create a bibliography, everything works fine. As for the to-do lists, I find myself the type of person who needs to write things down on paper. If they’re done digitally, I have the tendency to forget that they’re there.

  2. Adina Langer says:

    Kate,

    I am also interested in the application of Evernote for image-based research and preservation. Do you find that your preferred tools greatly vary by context (work, school, personal) or that you find it easy to integrate across contexts?

    • kdaly3 says:

      I normally don’t use any of these tools for personal reasons, there are just certain things I need to put down on paper rather than in a digital format, but since the things I do for work and school are so similar, it’s been pretty easy to integrate tools, though I never find myself needing anything other than Evernote and Google Docs (for its ability to share between users).

  3. jjackson39 says:

    Google Docs have definitely been a life saver for me the past several years, and I find myself relying on them more and more since they have been integrated into many projects I have at work as well. The back and forth of files from Excel/Google Sheets is definitely one of the only downsides to the whole Google docs experience and its particularly bad when using an Excel spreadsheet with all sorts of fancy customization fields on it. Hopefully that improves at some point!

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