Tools for a Research Project Part II: Writing

Haven’t read Part I yet? Click here.

Microsoft Word

Everyone knows at least some features of the MS word. But I will only discuss those which people often overlook and make a mess out of their documents. latest versions of MS Word have built in functionality of adding a list of tables, list of figures, and most important of all table of contents, and bibliography.

Let’s start with the table of contents. Every time you need to add a heading to a section, make sure you select Home->Styles->Heading 1 (or whichever level of hierarchy you require). You can right click on each of these presets and change the font, size color etc according to your requirements so that you won’t have to edit everything one by one.

If you have done the headings part correctly, then go to the empty page on which you wish to put the table of contents and then go to References->Table of Contents. This will add a table of contents to your document. If you made any changes to the document afterward, you can simply refresh it.

Next is the list of tables and list of figures. Your documents will contain loads of them. All of them should be captioned. To do this, right click on the table or the figure and select Insert Caption. Now go to References->Captions->Insert table of figures. In the box that pops up, select Caption label as Table to insert a list of tables and Figure to insert a list of figures. Make sure your cursor is on the page you want to put the lists on.

The reason for recommending Mendeley earlier will be clear now. Whenever a research work is undertaken, all the articles, books etc which are used as references must be cited. There are a number of formats for doing so. You can find out which one is the norm in your field by asking your supervisor or a colleague. But no matter which one you use, it must be consistent throughout the document. Whenever you want to cite something, simply go to References tab and click on Insert Citation in Mendeley Cite-O-Matic. This extension is added automatically when Mendeley is installed. Start typing the title or the name of the author in the box which pops up. You can select multiple relevant papers. There is a list of references at the end of each research paper. This is easy to insert. Simply click on insert bibliography and it will be inserted. Remember in the first article I had mentioned about checking all the details of the paper like author’s name, publication etc? This is why. If there are any mistakes in the details, those will be inserted as they are in the bibliography. And in the field of academics and research, incorrect citation is a cardinal sin.

To add a bibliography, go the last page of your document and click on Insert Bibliography from the same box. Check once again that everything is in order in this section before making the final submission.

Google Drive

Other than your references you will have a lot of supporting files. Data tables, images, videos clips, audio recordings, codes are all very crucial which need to be always organized and backed up to make sure you get them whenever you need them.

There are three major services when it comes to cloud back up. I personally prefer google drive because it offers 15GB of free storage as against 2 and 5 GB by Dropbox and Onedrive respectively. (If 15 GB isn’t sufficient for you, additional storage costs roughly the same amount on Google drive and Dropbox).

Chances are that many of the files which you will be using will have to be shared with your collaborators. This is quite easy. Right click on the folder or file which you want to share and click on Share. Type in the email ids with whom this data has to be shared. If you do not want to allow certain people to edit the files but just view them, change the pencil icon next to their email if to an eye.

Install the desktop app of whichever service you ultimately choose so that you won’t have to back up everything manually every time you update something. You can simply save everything in the Drive folder itself.

Another reason to go with Google is the ecosystem. Google supports a lot of file types natively or with the addition of extensions directly to your drive account. To add an extension go to New->More->Connect More Apps on your drive. I will not go into the details of google drive because it is very easy to figure out and there are already plenty of help available online. I, however, will talk about one extension which I really like and have been using for a while now.

MindMup 2

mindmup-03-100031558-gallery
An example of mind map drawn out on mindmup. Courtesy: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2032818/review-mindmup-is-a-free-effortless-way-to-create-mind-maps-in-moments.html

This is a tool to make mind maps. Even though it is a stand-alone service, you can store your maps on google drive itself from where they will be easily accessible to you. I may write in detail about mind maps later but for now, all you need to know is it helps to visualize spread and relations between different parts of your idea/work. Whenever you want to discuss an idea with someone, may be a supervisor or a collaborator, following your explanation is a lot easier when connections between different parts are visually seen.

Grammarly

Nobody is perfect. At least no one’s English is. And when you are working on large documents, mistakes are bound to happen. A slipped comma or use of a wrong article can cause a lot of trouble for in the revision process. This is where Grammarly comes handy. You can use it in Chrome as an extension, use their desktop app alongside MS word, or visit their website to use text editor there. The free version includes basic features which are enough for our work. There are alternatives to Grammarly like ginger etc. which you can check out as well to find out which one works best for you.

 

Do let me know your suggestions. If there is anything specific you’d like me to blog about, let me know in the comments of this post or write to me. Share this post with everyone whom you think will find it useful.

I thought this series of posts will be over in two parts, but after receiving some suggestions from fellow students, it looks like there will be one more part. In it, the focus will be less on the tools and more about enriching your research experience and keeping your morale high.

So stay tuned…

 

 

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