A Researcher’s iPad Tool Kit

Ever wondered whether you should purchase an iPad as a research tool? Ever thought about the compromises you might have to make, with your favourite software not available? Ever thought about the advantages of not having to carry your heavy laptop around?

Having been an enthusiastic Mac user for more years than I can remember, it was with great anticipation that I made a decision to purchase my first iPad (Retina screen), which was to become my mobile research desk. This replaced my ageing Power Mac G4 17″ laptop, which is both heavy and awkward to transport on a regular basis. It does however have all the ports needed to give a good presentation (VGA, disc drive, audio, firewire, ethernet, wifi etc) and may need to be recalled occasionally.

It’s not much good having a tool kit without any tools, so the careful selection of a set of iPad research tools has become one of the joys of my last few weeks. I have been more than impressed by the apps that are now available for the iPad3 as these have allowed me to integrate my University desk, the bus/plane and my home office and devise an efficient workflow.

What follows is a list of the apps I have selected after extensive research, which integrate with my Mac OS X software on my laptop. They have proven to be relatively inexpensive, especially with student discount.

So that you can understand the integration that I am trying to achieve, I have listed the software installed (Mac OS X) on my home laptop (MacBook Pro 17”, Snow Leopard) in italics. In many cases, there is an equivalent iOS5 (iPhone/iPad) version, but for others the developers are working towards this goal.

Core Research Tasks

iOS5 | Mac OS X

  • Recording: QuickVoice
  • Notetaking: Notability, PlainText
  • Reading: , Goodreader, iBooks, Kindle | Skim, Kindle
  • Annotating: PDF Expert | Skim
  • Brainstorming/Mindmapping: iThoughtsHD |  Mindnode Lite, Scrivener
  • Web Searching: ArticleSearch, Safari | DEVONagent Pro, Bookends, DEVONthink Pro Office, Firefox
  • Referencing: Bookends On Tap| Bookends
  • Storing and Organising: DEVONthink To Go, Bookends on Tap | DEVONthink Pro Office, Bookends, Excel
  • Exchanging/Syncing: Dropbox | Dropbox
  • Data Analysis: Dedoose | Dedoose
  • Writing: Scrivener, Mellel, Word
  • Presentations: Keynote | Snapz Pro, Keynote, Powerpoint, Mindnode Lite
  • Printing: Printopia | Printopia
  • Communication: all of the following have iOS5 clients | FaceTime, Skype, Mail, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, WordPress

Utilities

iOS5 | Mac OS X

  • Multiple clipboards, text manipulation: CopyPaste
  • Save files and open folders: Default Folder X
  • Additional Screen: Air Display
  • Remote Access from iPad: Splashtop Streamer

I will describe the reasons for my choices in the next few posts.

Social Media Use in Community Organizations

Many Clubs appear to be using social media in a very limited way; perhaps an internal forum or maybe a Facebook page.

Let us know if you are one of the exceptions, and tell us what you have done.

The successful use of social media will create a web presence, be a marketing and recruitment tool and should create a feeling of community amongst members. Some Clubs are using private forums/bulletin boards/noticeboards but these are only available to members and hence can’t have a role in the recruitment of new members. Forums do however contribute significantly to a feeling of community and generate social capital.

Popular Social Media websites include:

  • Blogger, WordPress: blogs for text sharing and commenting
  • Forums: such as Bushwalk Australia
  • Twitter: microblogs used for short text messages
  • Facebook: photo and personal news sharing
  • Flickr: photo and video sharing
  • YouTube: a video sharing
  • digg: social news
  • StumbleUpon: social news
  • Reddit: social news
  • MeetUp: meeting organiser
  • Delicious: a social bookmarking

Perhaps you fear the potential invasion of your privacy. Well most of the social media applications have privacy options which can make them quite safe and as a further precaution, like me, you can use a secondary email address to register. Getting a Google mail address is easy.

Unfortunately/fortunately depending on your perspective, social media applications are here to stay and you are going to have to learn to live with them. Your friends, parents, children and grandchildren, travel sites, many Clubs and companies and even potential employers are all using social media.

Assuming your Club has tried at least one of the social media, do you think it attracted new members?

Hardly a “Club” but the problems are similar;  a need for new blood

Some bushwalking Clubs/groups with Facebook pages

  • Tasmanian University Bushwalking Club
  • Indonesian Bushwalking Club (IBC)
  • Pandani Bushwalking Club
  • Walkie Talkie Bushwalking Group
  • Bundaberg Bushwalking Club
  • Wild Ones Bushwalking Club
  • STICKS- Old Res Bushwalking Club
  • Blue Mountains Bushwalking Men
  • Jewish Women’s Bushwalking Club
  • YHA Bushwalking
  • Oxfam Bushwalking Inc.
  • Bushwalking & Adventure

PS I didn’t get to the end of the list of bushwalking groups, so if I missed you please give us a link to your Facebook page and I will add it.

Some Facebook usage stats for Australia (December 2011)

By Age
<18    13% 1,374,180
18-25 28% 2,967,260
26-35 25% 2,637,540
36-45 16% 1,710,280
>45    18% 1,966,580

By sex
Female 54% 5,592,260

By Interest
Interested in hiking as shown on their Facebook page 110,740, with 75,580 between 18-45 years.

Source: Social Stats iPhone app

Using Social Media to Boost Club Membership

Social media are familiar to everyone and can help your Club collaborate, share, welcome, energise, update, compete, promote, plan, collate, produce, discuss, record, and present, using well known web 2.0 interactive tools such as Twitter, blogs, Skype, IM, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, wikis and forums.

Web 2.0 tools can help you collaborate with other Club members to develop new resources, share the work load, make new members feel welcome, update guides and policies, run competitions, promote your Club to the public, plan events, collate, edit and distribute digital newsletters, promote discussion, and record events, skills and presentations.

Your members are probably already talking about your Club using social media. There are tools available to check what your target audience are saying about you: Google Alerts, Twitter Search, Technorati are but a few.

What are they saying? Is it positive or negative or simply non-existent? Do they have misconceptions? Do you want to capitalise on the opportunities available to promote your Club to new members?

The first step to grow your Club is to devise a social media plan, keeping in mind your goals and probably limited resources.

Some questions to be answered:

  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • What do you want to change?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What sort of relationships would you like to form?
  • How would you like to change your relationship with your target audience?
  • What resources (time, people, money) are available to implement your plan and maintain it?
  • What have you already tried and how successful was it?
  • How do you intend to promote the changes?
  • How will you know if it is working?

NB It is critical that everyone in your Club hierarchy is supportive and part of the development of this plan.

Acknowledgement

Some of the ideas here have been adapted from the Museum 2.0 How to develop a small scale social media plan and the Museum Social Media Strategic Planning Worksheet

Climbing the Literature Review Mountain

I have been working on my literature review for almost 6 months part-time and during that time I have sometimes wondered whether I should be doing my Masters, when the mountains I needed to climb appeared almost impossible.

Not only do I have  to learn the language used by social scientists, but also there is the language used in media research, and as I come from a science background, the language used in humanities.

Many a sentence and paragraph has required rereading and even needed me to look up glossaries. At one stage I even made my own online glossary, collated from the contributions of many other media students before me.

Of course, checking your glossary every time you meet a word that is unfamiliar is fairly inefficient, so I decided that I had better learn their meanings and set up a flash card program to help me do so. The process of collating the list helped me, but I have  found watching hundreds of flash cards to be fairly uninspiring. I might do it again for a special purpose, perhaps a presentation I have to give, but only with a reduced list.

Fortunately, as I read more and more, the meanings of many of the words has become second nature. Learning by “immersion” works well, even although it can be very demanding and slow at the beginning.

I was told early on that you will know that you have finished your literature review when the same authors names keep coming up in the reference list. The other day I recognised one of the authors names; may be I have started on the pathway up the  mountain.

Over a coffee the other day, one of my friends who had done his PhD in the 70’s was consoling me. He gave me a piece of wisdom, that has re-energised me to push up that mountain. “As you read more you will begin to form a framework into which future reading will fit.This process begins very slowly, but then speeds up until eventually most things you read will fit the framework you have made and you reach the plateau.”

On reflection, this should have been obvious but I needed the reassurance, that I would eventually get to the top of that mountain.

The Role of Social Media in Boosting Club Membership

I have for several days been participating in very constructive threads in two bushwalking forums viz Bushwalk Australia and Bushcraft Oz, discussing problems associated with club membership and the possible role of web 2.0 in providing solutions.

The motivation for this is some personal observations I have made over the years

  1. Many clubs are attracting a smaller percentage of younger members than they once did.
  2. Many clubs find that retention of new members is low with many only remaining for a few walks or meeting
  3. Many clubs are struggling to fill Committee positions and are recycling jobs.
  4. Many clubs complain that the workload is too great for their office bearers and it needs to be shared.
  5. Many clubs are finding that the “baby boomers” now in their 50s-60’s make up the majority of new members.
  6. Many clubs are using the same traditional methods of communication that they have used for 50 years.
  7. Few clubs have a plan to tackle these problems

Social Media tools promote greater collaboration between members (wikis), improved levels of participation (forums, blogs, Twitter and Facebook), provide a sense of community ( VoIP, Skype, IM) and fit the way younger members interact with those around them, which is quite different to that of earlier generations.

Some examples of community organisations that have successfully adopted social networking include the Country Womens Association (CWA) and Sydney Bushwalkers (SBW) and no doubt others.

If you belong to a club, please let us know how your Club, (need not be a bushwalking club), has successfully used social media and networking to attract new members, retain and involve them in Club activities.

Learning the Language of Social Media and Research Methodology | Using Wikis

How do you learn the language of a new research field?

One of my biggest challenges as a novice postgrad researcher in a new field is to learn the “language” sufficiently well that my literature review is meaningful, that I are able to use the “correct” language in my proposal and presentations and that I am fluent enough to understand and respond to questions from experts in the field, who will of course be accomplished users of my newly “adopted” second language.

So far I have been keeping a handwritten glossary, but while this helps the familiarization process and forces me to summarise concepts, it is neither collaborative, able to be shared, ordered, searchable or sustainable in the long-term.

Being a social media researcher, the obvious choice is to build a glossary using a wiki, which would allow collaboration from other social media researchers and be accessible via the internet.

Sounds great but the mechanics of doing it are not so easy, as wikis vary enormously ( see Wikimatrix)  in what they offer. My ideal “glossary” wiki would:

  • be free of charge
  • be hosted on the web
  • allow use of the “definition” syntax
  • allow tagging or categorisation of individual terms to allow grouping ( eg governance, web 2.0, e-participation etc )
  • allow automatic sorting of terms
  • have  a field for the source of each definition
  • have a table of contents, allowing easy access to terms by first letter, eg A B C D …..

None of the wikis I researched had enough of these features to make it worthwhile although Wikispaces came the closest and I gave it a trial.

Is the effort worthwhile anyway?

To quote one of my supervisors

…..so much academic discussion is specific, nuanced, contextual, and sometimes not so directly portable from the
topic in hand to the one you yourself are interested in.

Next time I will look at some alternatives to a wiki

  • Flashcards
  • Concordancing software,
  • Translation software.

Creating a Social Media, Social Science and Research Methodology Glossary

One of the first things anyone commencing postgraduate research notices is that there is a whole new language to be learnt. Not only is there new terminology to be learnt related to the research methodology, but also discipline specific language.

Learning this new language can be achieved slowly by immersion, during your literature review, but a more active process is more likely to be successful. I have found that maintaining a handwritten glossary is an excellent start as it forces me to focus on what I am reading and to summarise as I work my way through the article. I frequently refer back to my handwritten glossary as I read which helps the terminology be absorbed.

There are obvious problems with a handwritten glossary unless you are highly organised and have planned well in advance. How do you keep the terms alphabetical? What if you want to categorise them, as I have done for articles in this blog?

This where digital records have their advantages. A spreadsheet is an obvious and excellent way to organise a glossary, as a separate worksheet can be used for each category and within a category terms can be sorted alphabetically.

But what about if you would like to share your glossary with others? Well there is always a spreadsheet in Google docs or you can paste the worksheets into you home page or blog, but that the latter will not allow collaboration.

A wiki is an obvious way to allow collaboration and share the results publicly.

More about this possible solution next time.

My Research Workflow

I spent several weeks, prior to commencement, reviewing other researcher’s recommendations for software that could help in the task of research and thesis writing. Being a Mac enthusiast for many years, I had no hesitation in selecting Mac software that I knew would be innovative, user friendly and well designed, even although the downside was that support from the University Help Desk was likely to be less comprehensive.

The other disincentive to spending my own money on software and a Mac computer was that I was to be supplied with a PC running Windows and with it came some well known Microsoft products such as Endnote and MS Office.  Both of these have a reputation for being less than user-friendly and, in the case of MS Word, unsuited to the task of writing a long thesis, so I was not too concerned. Fortunately, I had an old PowerBook G4 laptop, the hard drive of which I erased and then installed Mac OS 10.5.8 ( Leopard) which will work with most new software releases.

My purchases so far have been:

More details to follow.
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