Digital Tools in Research: Part Deux

A follow on from Here and Here

I have just found out that the university want to recruit interns to work on the project – research students with experience of using tools from various departments. It involves getting some personal training and training others whilst making a record of practice and implementation. I have to confess I am interested.. but I know I can’t commit. I can’t realistically physically be in my department that many hours a week – I can’t afford it in terms of funding myself, plus I would struggle to keep up a writing regime which is crucial at this stage of my PhD, my beloveds need more support than that would allow for and I can’t let myself attempt to fit that all in without expecting the fatigue to push me towards another breakdown. I hate feeling that I can’t do stuff but I have to be honest with myself.

Below is a summary of the interview based on the notes I made in preparation and entirely unverbatim. The interview itself was more informal and much more based on the feedback I gave the researcher in advance (i.e the answers I discuss below)It focuses on 4 key points: Mindmapping, RSS feeds, Social Networks, Sharing experience. I hope that including it here helps other people believe that they can use these tools and make a difference to others trying it out. I also hope that my getting more people involved more subject-specific resources will be built up and better networks will arise.


  1. Can you explain how you use mind-mapping software to help with your research? What are the advantages of using the software vs. hand-drawing? –
    (In the interests of appropriate disclosure I use Mindview 4.0) I use the software in 2 key ways. 1 – as a visual aid to explore connections between ideas and themes in my research 2 -As a planning tool to map out chapter division
    Using software enables a greater degree of flexibility of sizing, allows easy relocation of fields and higlighting of specif connections as well as the facility to add notes or weblinks
  2. Was the software easy to use? Do you need to become an ‘expert’?
    Hard for me to answer as I had training from DSA; but most of it is fairly intuitive
  3. How expensive was it?
    Provided by DSA

Social Networks

  1. How do you use social networks to help with your research?
    In general I use social networking very little for research per se but on a more indirect level I use it to keep up-to-date with developments in my field, new articles from journals and key researchers and for notification of relevant events. I also occasionally solicit feedback or advice from researchers
  2. How do academic/research focused social networks help with collaboration/networking? How does that impact on your research?
    Again this in an area which is not directly of relevance to me since I have never used it to become involved in collaborative projects but it is an area I think is very important and something I would be interested in pursuing further
  3. Do you need to be a social networker generally to get best use out of these sites?
    In my experience the key academic social network [] is formatted and presented quite differently to e.g. facebook so prior knowledge isn’t really an issue – but since I have found that increasingly calls-for-papers and academic work-in-progress groups etc maintain a presence on facebook it is worth exploring non academic specific sites
  4. [2 other qustions appeared on the initial questionnaire but were dropped from the interview – a. How do you think social networks help support your academic profile and what relevance do thy have to a post-doctoral career? b. How does being part of an academic social network make you feel?]

RSS Feeds etc.

  1. Have you found that new technologies have had an impact in the way you keep up-to-date with new developments in your field?
    This really ties in to my comment about social networking – yes looking for new developments and research online is a key part of my routine. I use to check on the work of specific researchers or to do general searches on topics of interest but I use RSS feeds to keep up-to-date with key journal updates and especially BMCR reviews which I now check weekly from my toolbar rather than leave cluttering my inbox.


  1. How did you find out about technologies?
    In all honesty, – other than spending a lot of time procrastinating online, living with a researcher who also specialises in e-learning and having written a conference paper on digital research amongst classicists I blame Vitae who have whole sections on managing your profile and use of tools
  2.  Any tips for researchers who might want to use more tech?
    Its not as scary as it looks, the more you put in the more you can get out of it and only by participation can we build resources relevant to us as researchers

Any Thoughts?

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