Research tools: software & utilities

Free software, applications, utilities and smart ideas for grad students.



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This is a part of the series, diary of a doctoral student with stories on politics, emotions and other things that determine our research beyond the research methods. One challenge that I faced while writing my dissertation was that every time I started a new chapter, I had to deal with multiple ways of organising it. For example, there were times when I could have narrated my story village by village. Alternatively, I could have organized the layout based on themes or chronology of events that would cut across each village. There was merit in organising the chapter in each of these […]

Mind-maps for organising the layout of a chapter, article or ...




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Zotero is a free-software to manage bibliographies and citations with advanced functions and an easy interface As a doctoral student a lot of my time goes into managing my references. Thankfully there are many tools around to help me manage my references and to speed up the process of inserting citations while I write my papers. After a lot of trial and error I settled on Refworks that I was really happy with. Unfortunately it is a paid software with a stiff fee that I may not be able to afford once I leave the university. Thankfully, a friend told […]

Zotero: The best citation tool around, and it’s free


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Creating neat bibliographies can be a pain, Word 2007 makes it easy Note: There is an easier way to cite in MS Word and it’s free.  Check out my note on Zotero citation tool. There are hundreds of formats for citations like Chicago, APA, etc.  The only thing in common between them is that each of them is a nightmare!  I cannot imagine how people did extensive citations before the coming of automated help.  I am a big fan of refworks, endnote and other bibliography managers.  Unfortunately, these are costly and cannot be afforded by everyone.  For those who did […]

Citations using Word 2007: Bibliographies made easy


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For an introduction to Refworks click here. If you have used it earlier, read on… A few months ago when Refworks announced that they are going offline, I was excited. I am doing my field work in rural India and had decided not to take full time internet access. I started regretting not having Endnote; I need not do that anymore. Refworks’ new Write-N- Cite III makes available most of the important features offline. The new Write-N-Cite III has an offline database that downloads all references from our online database to an offline location. This enables us to search and […]

Refworks goes offline: Exciting new features



Finally found the perfect voice recorder with great clarity, space, battery life and other great features I have tried my hands on four to five voice recorders so far. When I left to India for my fieldwork I was determined to get a good one that matches all my requirements. I will be doing long interviews and attending conferences – so I needed one that has a powerful mic and could record for long durations. When I read or when I work on some topic, I like to record my thoughts as they come. I needed a voice recorder that […]

Perfect voice recorder for fieldwork, interviews, conferences


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Getting and organising good references is the key to creating good bibliographies for academic papers. This is a time consuming and effort-intensive process. This post discusses some tips and tricks to make this process easier and more productive With the dramatic growth of information technology and the internet in particular, information in the hands of researchers has increased dramatically. We now have an opportunity to collect information at rates unthinkable one generation before us. But getting the best out of this information glut requires careful strategies for collecting, organizing and retrieving information. This article reviews a few tools and practices. […]

Tools & Practices for finding, cleaning & organising references


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Surprisingly few students use citation managers though it can make life so much easier I am always put off at the thought of creating bibliographies with their innumerable dots and commas and italics, and a grammar complicated more than that of German language. I really have no idea why people came up with such complicated formats such as Chicago, APA or MLA. For my first paper that was headed towards publication I followed the style guide. After one year, I realise that I made many mistakes and the process in any case had taken a long time and was frustrating. […]

Speed up citations with bibliography managers



An article or book typically fits many categories – it is possible to put one record in multiple folders in Refworks I just discovered a facility in Refworks to put a record in multiple folders. Take a book like India: Development and Participation; I will want it in my ‘development’ folder and also ‘India’ folder. I used to think that I had to duplicate it each time I wanted to put a record in multiple folders. While this would have served the purpose, it becomes a problem when I wish to make editions to the record. Suppose I wish to […]

Associating refworks record with multiple folders


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This page gives links to websites of State and Union governments in India with detailed information on budgets. Brief descriptions of sites are given. Despite the importance of budgets, very little information is available about them in the Indian context. The Union budget gets a national coverage and information is widely available. Much less is know about state budgets. The good news is that most state governments now have websites, often with extensive information. As a first step, I’ve put together information on all of them in one place.  I updated this page to reflect the websites in February 2011. […]

Union and State budgets, India: Websites, documents, tools




Many talks and interviews with well known people are now available online. I’ve put together a series of them that I have specially enjoyed. To see the rest, click here Amartya Sen, in my opinion, is the economist who has probed the limits of economics as a discipline. In this interview he talks of nature of theorising, especially in economics, and makes many interesting observations. The interesting feature of Sen’s analysis is that he rarely dismisses the philosophical basis of the discipline. Instead he brings out the limitations involved and the need to bring in greater diversity to the informational […]

Webcast of interview with Amartya Sen: Reflections on theory in ...


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Google scholar and specialized bibliography services like Econlit and JSTOR seem to have different strengths and should be used in different ways I started using Google Scholar with a vengeance when it started. It has an ease that other providers do not: there is no need to log in, there is no need for subscription and it seems to pull out articles that other service providers just did not. In no time, Google Scholar also started providing links to my citation manager – Refworks. But soon I started realising various limitations of Google Scholar. Here’s a brief assessment of the […]

Comparing Google Scholar and specialised bibliographic search engines


I had written a note about using wordnet lexical database that could be used in content analysis.  I just stumbled on a lexical database in Hindi.  I am yet to try it, but am excited that such a tool is available in an Indian language, specially when I am planing a media study with a friend.

Wordnet lexical database in Hindi



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A tool to generate conceptually related set of words for content analysis Wordnet is a lexical database maintained by Princeton university.  It is described as: “WordNet® is a large lexical database of English, developed under the direction of George A. Miller. Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are grouped into sets of cognitive synonyms (synsets), each expressing a distinct concept. Synsets are interlinked by means of conceptual-semantic and lexical relations. The resulting network of meaningfully related words and concepts can be navigated with the browser” When we with to do autocoding with NVivo or other qualitative research (or content analysis) software, […]

Using Wordnet lexical database with content analysis software


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NVivo Rating: 4 out of 5 I started using NVivo – a qualitative research and content analysis software – last year when I worked on a content analysis project. NVivo’s purposes are simple – it allows us to assemble different documents (including pictures) and code them. The codes can be arranged in a hierarchy or individually. While most coding is manual, some of it can be automated (see below). The best part of NVivo is that it allows us to review contents carrying a particular code with ease. For example, I was looking at newspaper articles on contracting and wanted […]

NVivo: Useful content analysis tool


Visualising ones ideas is a great way to think through complex issues or arguments. Here are three free utilities to put our ideas into neat pictures Last year I used a mind-mapping software called FreeMind productively. Mind maps start with a simple core from which one can have multiple nodes that lead to multiple nodes and so on. Free mind allows the user to link different nodes, make comments on certain nodes, link them to files, insert a number of images, etc. Last year I did a course on Social Movement Theory. Towards the end of the semester a friend […]

Visualise ideas with Mind Maps, Concept Maps and Diagraming tools



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It’s easy to import citations from Google Scholar into Refworks. In order to do this go to “scholar preferences”, a link you will find next to the search box and at the bottom of that page you will find an entry called “Bibliography Manager”. In this, select Refworks (I often end-up choosing a similar sounding thing called “Refman”, take care). Once you save the perferences, you will find a link called “import to refworks” below each search result. The rest is one click away. This though is not entirely trouble free since logging into Refworks should be done only through […]

Using Refworks with Google Scholar


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Refworks Rating: 4 out of 5 Manage citations, create bibliographies quick & easy in any format you want (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) and keep references organised Note: There is an easier way to cite and it’s free.  Check out my note on Zotero citation tool. I have been using Refworks since six months with great satisfaction. It is perhaps one of the most useful and time saving utilities for graduate students working on research papers. The software has two broad components: (1) Database of our references to organise and manage references (2) Utility for easily adding citations to papers that […]

Manage citations and bibliography with Refworks