Research Update – Winning Choices or Hacks for PhD Productivity

Research collage

As readers of this blog knows well, I am a PhD candidate with the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana currently doing my data collection for my dissertation. My research moves very slowly, but this semester, I can see I have gotten over the “what is it really that I am doing?”-stage and entered “this is what I am doing!”-stage of my research degree. The feeling is swell. Some of the winning choices I have made this year includes:

  1. taken help from research assistants Ibrahim and Esther (and maybe Seth). They need to learn about the research process, I need admin help. They could use some extra cash, I could use some more hours in my week. Win-win.
  2. spent many more hours in the UG Balme Library as graduate students now have a lovely Research Commons there. The space is just so beautiful, I am collecting for a photo post on the sublime building that is Balme library.
  3. transferred my research library onto Zotero (finally! it took me three full days and it is not 100% yet, but just going through my readings was useful!)
  4. thinking about my research every day. In the car, the first 30 minutes in my office in the morning or after dinner. Solutions only come after much thinking.
  5. grabbed every opportunity to publish or present. I decided to do this as the main purpose of doing a PhD is to learn the craft of research, however when feeling slightly overwhelmed with just your regular work – extra stuff seems…crazy! But it is not, in new constellations, be it with conference participants, abstract reviewers or a taxi driver, I have learned more about the craft.

What good choices have you made in your career this year?

 

 

Free and Open Source Software for Academics

This afternoon, I went to an inspiring lecture by Joshua Kwesi Aikins as a part of a two-day lecture series for graduate students at Institute of African Studies at University of Ghana. These were some of the free and open source softwares that were recommended. I have ordered them in what I feel is the order of importance to my research endeavor.

1. Zotero. Keep all you references handy. Add more by “harvesting” bibliographic info from websites (like Amazon, Google Scholar etc.). Insert references into any document and by the click of a button add bibliography or change referencing format. Just as all open source software, there is plenty of information online on how to get started, see for instance this Zotero guide. Amazing!

2. LimeSurvey. A free tool you can use to create online surveys (they can also easily be printed). The basic results are immediately visible, and if you want to do regressions etc. LimeSurvey exports to the most common statistics programs (also as free and open software). Fantastic!

3.RQDA. A software that enhances and facilitates qualitative research.  RQDA lets you work with text documents (for instance transcribed interviews) and code them. Then you can sort your coded text fragments and analyze or even make a quantitative analysis of them. Wonderful!

These were just a few of those mentioned, but on my top list to download (I am already using Zotero).

Update: The Academic Productivity blog has more software tips.

What free and open softwares would you add to the list?