5 Smart Ways to Use Technology for PhDs
- Student Tips
Whatever their discipline, PhD students are always busy. There are classes to take, experiments to repeat, conferences to attend, contacts to network, advisers and committees to please, books to read, and articles to publish. And, after all that, there is a thesis to write. With all the responsibilities and commitments, many PhD students feel that they have far too little time and their theses will never be finished. They become overwhelmed by stress or feel that they have failed when they don't have the time to juggle all of the perceived obligations of a doctoral student. Worse, others give up because they see their research as an endless struggle or a waste of time and energy. The thing most PhD students feel that they need is more time, and while there is no way to add hours to the day, technology can help students optimize the time they do have. Here are five ways PhD students can use technology to gain time, maximize productivity, and de-stress their lives.
1. Fed up scrolling down papers on your laptop screen? Use your tablet.
Most PhD students complete a lot of their work on personal computers or laptops. Doctoral funding often allocates money for laptops or PCs, but if you already have a PC or laptop, consider requesting a tablet instead. Tablets are light and mobile. They make work easy to take and keep with you at all times. Download PDFs at the beach. Proof-read a chapter on the bus. Or read journal articles in bed, like The Thesis Whisperer.
2. Random thoughts, questions, or ideas? Use Evernote.
PhD students are always thinking about their research, even when they're not. If you're like many PhD students, you've probably had a brilliant idea for your thesis...on the bus. Or while waiting in the queue for a much-needed coffee. Or just as you're walking out of the library. And, if so, you will know the frustration of trying to remember that brilliant idea the next time you sit down to work. Evernote is a way to record your thoughts in real-time and then access them again from just about anywhere. The app is an online notebook that is supported by most devices. It can be used to jot down thoughts, take detailed notes, or collect and 'clip' information from websites. The basic app is free, but a yearly subscription allows for even more detailed and interactive note-taking.
3. Afraid to forget something? Use Wunderlist.
The to-do list for a PhD student is never-ending and keeping everything organized can seem impossible. Not with Wunderlist. You can use Wunderlist to keep track of assignments, schedule and coordinate projects, and prepare for future tasks. Wunderlist syncs with all your devices and can be used for personal and work-related organization, so you'll never miss a conference deadline or coffee date again.
4. Can't find your way in the literature? Use Mendeley.
Even if you have only just applied for your PhD, you'll know that doctoral studies require a lot of reading. There's always one more book, another article, or an up-coming study to read. Keeping track of what you've read, when, and why can be very time-consuming, especially when it comes time to cite your sources in your thesis. There are several programs and apps that students have been using to organize their citations, but some of them can be frustratingly analog or lack the finesse needed by a PhD student. Mendeley is different. It's cloud-based and syncs with all your devices so that your sources are always available no matter where you are. It also connects to Dropbox, Google Scholar, and Microsoft Word, so that you can seemlessly integrate your citations and research.
5. Too silent in your lab? Use Spotify.
Plato said that music gives wings to the mind. Whether you use music to concentrate or relax, it helps to have all your music available in one place. Spotify can give you access to all your music on all your devices without any hassle. A basic Spotify account lets you listen to music where ever you have an internet connection, but a premium membership gives you access offline and lets you listen add-free.
Completing a PhD might seem stressful and overwhelming, but technology can help. With apps for syncing data and research, cloud-based storage, and handy devices like tablets and smartphones, the only thing that modern PhD students really need to stress about is saving their work! Don't wait for an article (or worse, a broken or stolen device) to remind you to backup your data. Download Dropbox today and keep your research safe and accessible wherever you go.
Elizabeth Koprowski is an American writer and travel historian. She has worked in the higher education system with international students both in Europe and in the USA.