What does it mean to be paperless? (Part 1/3)

The idea of the paperless office is not a new one. With the increased availability and simplicity of computers it is a term that is bandied about a lot. Today there are even more devices, software and networks that can make this ‘paperless’ idea more fact than fiction.

Late last century (1998) I began postgraduate study, and then continued my studies to complete my Masters by research. I completed these studies just under 10 years ago. Study during this period meant attending lectures in the evenings after full time work, completing readings, research and assignments on weekends. Research on weekends always meant going into the uni campus, finding a seat at a reference computer (yes, they had different computers for everything) and looking up various databases to find articles. Then you would write down the reference numbers of the articles and go to either a) find a book/journal on a shelf , to read and photocopy 0r; b) find the microfiche (tiny pieces of plastic that had the articles printed in teeny tiny writing, which could only be read using a microfiche reader and then photocopied from there).  This took ages and cost a lot of money in photocopying…oh and filled up folders etc with articles you may only read once then never use again. Sometimes what you needed was in a book or journal that was not at that particular library or even campus. So an inter-library loan would have to be organised, or if there was no time for that, an emergency road trip to a different University to read or photocopy it from there. Whole days were spent for each assignment doing all that “research” and then the articles read, critiqued and the assignment would still need to be written. EXHAUSTING!

Fast Forward…2011. The INTERNET is an amazing tool. Now we have online journal access, PDF downloads, Podcasts and YouTube. I can find not only appropriate articles and information, I can also find out immediately about the author and if they are truly an authority in the area. No paper wasted, and it all takes only minutes. Oh, and I don’t have to leave home to do it.

A vivid example of this is that just a few weeks ago I received a text from one of my wonderful sisters directing me to read an article in ‘The Age’ that she thought was relevant to my study area. I was on the computer doing my ‘paid job’ so I quickly looked up the article. It was relevant and quoted a professor from the US. I ‘google’ said professor and find a great body of work they had been involved in and a couple of books they had written and edited. Next step is Book Depository, looked up the three books I was interested in, read online reviews and narrowed my choice. Ordered the most relevant book, it was delivered to my door a week later. In under an hour I had sourced and (almost) acquired a book that would not even pop up in an ‘old school’ library search. This is amazing and too easy.

So the research bit is definitely more easily accessible and will mean I can get so much more done to a much better standard because the leg work that used to be mandatory for study is now eliminated. Brilliant 😀

Stay tuned for the next 2 blogs that will expand on this paperless idea. They will explore:

1) the potential of ‘the cloud’ for writing, editing and storage of drafts and papers, and

2) Skype, Ted Talks, academia.com and YouTube and how these tools can open doorways previously unconsidered.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Our shrinking world… « mypaperlessphd

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