Paperless…it’s all the rage!

As the title of my blog suggests, I am a big fan of going paperless when I can. I suppose this stems from my earliest years of teaching, when our staff office was mostly destroyed by fire. I am a paper hoarder and stacker,  so my desk was one of the worst affected as it had the most paper on it. This was in 1997, and there was no laptops for teachers at this stage, and only a few computers around for teacher use. It was then that I began to really use the computers (and disks) available to transfer all my planning and work to disk. The following year I began a Post Grad Diploma in ICT, and this added much needed skills and a shift in my thinking in what was possible with ICT, inside and outside the classroom.

I doesn’t seem surprising to me (or my nearest and dearest) that when I started my PhD journey I would need a new laptop, and that this blog has eventuated. I store increasingly more and more in various cloud based archives. For the last 4 weeks of my teaching I have had all of my presentations and resources stored in the cloud and accessed via the internet connection from the computer in my classroom. It has been great. I have also been promoting and modelling the use of EDMODO and our institutions LMS system for my classes.

This week, Thesis Whisperer posted this guest post from Marek Martyniszyn Going paperless part one: your desk « The Thesis Whisperer.  I liked it (I have 2 monitors at work), and some of the ideas resonated with where I have been and where I hope to go with this journey. The comments on the blog are also great, giving some alternative ideas and solutions to ‘go paperless’. So do pop over and have a read.

Like Thesis Whisperer, I find I still print off a few pages each month, these are mostly for formal letters or final proof reading of papers I am writing. I am happy that the majority of my reading is now on Menedely, with my annotations and notes easy to access and share.  My ideas and drafts are now being written into Evernote, using ‘Pomodoro’s ‘ while at ‘Shut up and Write’ sessions. I have also used google docs to collaborate with people on documents. As you can see there are a lot of ideas and techniques coming together for me at the moment, and as I head towards the end of my first year of candidature I feel quite well prepared and supported.

There are lots of ways of going paperless, what do you do? What is your favourite idea for going paperless?

Until next week

Fiona T

Mendeley vs EndNote -Guest Blog Post

This week one of my PhD friends, Hardimah Said,  has written a guest blog post for me. She has recently shifted her reference database from EndNote to Mendeley and agreed to write a review on her experience with Mendeley:

“I had heard about Mendeley quite a few times from friends and from reading some academic blogs, but I never really gave it a thought as my EndNote was doing a fine job for me so far. Until, recently, I came across this blog (a link recommended by one of the phdchat twitters, http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2012/08/20/organisation-research-library-mendeley-convert/
and I don’t know what ‘special’ effect this blog had, but it made me want to instantly give it a go. I surfed the Mendeley website and 30 minutes later I had a Mendeley account and all my references from EndNote were transferred to Mendeley too.

One feature of Mendeley that I love is that it allows the detailed notes on the right side of the same window. Whereas for EndNote, any specific reference that I want to look at in detail, will need to be opened as a new window. I also like the read and annotate feature which I can’t do in EndNote. And I found that whatever EndNote can do, Mendeley can do it too; such as the Microsoft Word Plug-in.

But overall, what I like the most about Mendeley is what EndNote can’t do*.  The backup feature which allows it to be synchronised to all other devices. This is a very convenient feature which is similar to Evernote (another great app that I rely on very much every day). So I now don’t have to worry anymore about updating & saving my Endnote from my office pc to my thumb-drive, and then do the same thing to my EndNote on my pc and mac at home. I have been ‘manually syncing’ EndNote this way for the last 2 years, so the auto sync feature in Mendeley is great. Another good feature which I love is that Mendeley can be opened on the iPhone or iPad, while EndNote can’t.  I usually use my iPhone in bed before going to sleep and so now I can check Mendeley or do some reading before I start dreaming.

For now, these are the reasons why I’m a happy convert to Mendeley although I know there are more great features of Mendeley that I know will be useful to me being in an academic profession such as; sharing papers, collaborating with friends and creating my own profile for own publication.

Hardimah Said.”

Thanks Hardimah! I have been enjoying the sync feature on Mendeley too, it does take the worry out of the backing up process.

I wonder what reference system you (my readers) are relying on? Is it EndNote, Mendeley or another program? As always, feel free to share in the comments below, or over on the facebook page.

Until next week,

Fiona T

*At this time ( October 2012) we don’t have access to the latest version of EndNote via our institution. Thanks to Tilla from EndNote for her comments about the increased functionality of EndNote6.  (Blog post updated 16th October 2012)

What does it mean to be paperless? (Part 2/3)

The ‘cloud’ is a fancy term that basically means your data, files etc are stored at a server remote to your computer. I realise that I have been using the ‘cloud’ for a few years for Facebook (I store recipes in the notes section).  I have recently been introduced to Google docs (that stores documents, pdfs, spread sheets etc), Acrobat.com (has the added ability of web conferencing) and Evernote. It seems the possibilities are ample for persuing a paperless research.

I have played with Acrobat.com, and it looks very professional and was promising until I tried to tag two different people to share a document with. It informed me I would have to upgrade my account…hmmm. I try to keep all my internet relations as ‘financially neutral’ as possible, and am not interested in a monthly fee for something offered for free at another site. This has lead me to look at Google Docs again. I have now uploaded and shared with four people, all of whom can read and comment on my writing. This bodes well, especially in an age where supervisors (and hopefully one day their students) travel around the country and overseas. I also like the fact that storing this work in progress in the cloud provides another back up of my work, aside from my computer, flash drive and email system.

One thing I lamented to my WH early on is that it was a pity I couldn’t write on PDF copies of articles, like I can on paper articles. Aside from converting them to word documents I couldn’t think of how to do this….My WH was a little startled that I wasn’t already aware of this, and said that yes, there was a way to do this! We pulled out the laptop and started to play. There are so many extra things you can so on a static PDF, I was amazed! I can highlight sections of relevant text, annotate them and even make links to other articles and documents stored on my computer or on the internet. Another light bulb moment: this paperless thing is not just me with my head in the clouds (excuse the pun), it could be an achievable reality.

Again, I feel compelled to mention that I do realise the end result of this journey will be a printed PhD on paper. I think it will be great if I have considerably reduced the amount of paper that could be used in my study be using these online, free tools. I am very excited to be embarking on this journey.

Here is a link to a YouTube about a paperless PhD, there are 3 parts and if you are interested in this online storage and PDF editing, this is quite good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6bPvtmio2Y

Next week, part three of this series:

What does it mean to be paperless? (Part 3/3) which will cover common things on the internet that can be used to enhance study and networking, from Skype to Ted Talks and a few stops in between.

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