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June SPSPotlight: Grad Hack

Making Technology Work For You

By Sarah L. Williams, GSC Member-at-Large

Experiencing information overload? Too many journal articles, too little time? Making to-do lists for your to-do lists? Here are my top four technology recommendations.

1. An RSS Reader (my recommendation: Feedly)
If you struggle to keep up with new publications, and put off skimming tables of contents, this is for you. RSS feeds summarize new additions to websites - new videos, new blog entries, and in this case, new publications. Most journals will have an RSS feed (for example, PSPB’s RSS site) that sends new articles directly to the program of your choice. Now, instead of hunting down the abstracts for each new issue of a journal, I can open one website, skim the summaries of every new article, and save what I want to read in depth.

2. A Reference Manager (my recommendation: Mendeley)
Okay, so now what do you do with all those shiny new publications you’ve discovered? I used to have a pile of poorly-named PDFs, scattered throughout about twenty folders, until I found Mendeley. By importing your PDFs into the program, it can usually identify all reference information - author, title, journal, year, and more - and it makes it easy to sort by those categories. Even more importantly, you can make folders and sort articles however you prefer - subject matter, projects you’re working on, or the massive, dreaded ‘to-read folder’.

3. To-Do Lists (my recommendation: Trello)
This is a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do item. I have never managed to sustain a to-do list past a week. However, I know people who swear by them, and of the many, many websites with lists I’ve started and not finished, Trello has been my favourite, for two reasons. One, you can start separate lists for separate areas, sub-lists, sub-sub-lists… all things that are useful when breaking down a massive undertaking. Two, it has helpful features for group projects - multiple people can run a list and be assigned to separate items - useful for organizing collaborations on projects.

4. Cloud Syncing (my recommendations: Dropbox, Google Drive)
Most people probably already use one of these, so I won’t go into great detail, but automatically syncing files via Dropbox has been a lifesaver, as someone who splits her working hours between the house and the office, and who rarely remembers to use her USB drive. Keep in mind that there are privacy concerns with these websites, so don’t sync your sensitive data! Also, though they’re fantastic to use for backing up your files, they shouldn’t be your only backup. (You HAVE been backing up your data and writing, right?)

 
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