One Small Step …

Two weeks since I posted the first blog on my PhD journey and there have been a few steps forward. The most important has been to actually commence drafting the literature review. Yes, something has finally flowed from the fingers to the screen. However today I want to give a couple of tips, based on experience, that I hope will make life easier for those who rely on computers in their work and study.

What to do when the Gods get angry

I woke up on the 24th June to find that during the night a stray lightning bolt from Zeus had wreaked havoc on the internals of both the PC and the Internet router. I don’t know what I’d done to offend Zeus but maybe he was annoyed that I was still running Windows XP!


Fortunately I had a spare router in the cupboard (doesn’t everyone?) so was able to restore Internet connectivity immediately. The bad news was that the computer didn’t want to play ball anymore. Happily all of my data was safe as the computer had died to save the external disk drive.

Had the disk drive been fried, it wouldn’t have been a major convenience other than having to replace both the drive and the computer, as I keep multiple backup copies of my data on a second (and third) drive, which is safely stored away from electricity. One new desktop box, router,  and a power board with a surge protector later and I was back in business. The lesson from this is: make sure you back up your work frequently!

Find a good bibliography program

The second thing that has been apparent over the last few months is the need to have the right tools for the job. I would strongly recommend to anyone undertaking research to get hold of a good referencing/bibliography program for your PC, something like EndNote  or Zotero. There are a number of very good reasons for acquiring one:

  • It keeps all you references in one place, and allows you link your references into your word processor and automatically create bibliographies in the correct style for your publication.
  • You can import all of your PDF scans of notes etc. and access them directly from the bibliography app.
  • The program I use provides an add-in to my Internet browser that allows me to automatically grab all the required bibliographic data from the online library catalogue or journal site and loads it directly into the database.
  • You can tag items with keywords so that you can quickly retrieve them via the search functions. A lot of the online journal sites will include the article keywords when you download the article details.
  • It allows you to set up links between articles making it easy to find articles that are related to each other.
  • The program allows you to add notes directly into the database.

There are others out there but these are the two programs I am familiar with. I have settled on Zotero as my program of choice. Why? Firstly I found the interface a lot nicer than EndNote, a personal choice but I wanted something that was easy to learn and easy to use. Secondly Zotero is free. Even though I can get a free copy of EndNote while I am a student, I want to be able to use the software and my database, after I have finished studying.

In my next blog I will focusing back on the pursuit of my dream!


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