Keeping with our Irish contributors theme this week, this guest post is by Ted Vickey, a PhD researcher at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) at the National University of Ireland at Galway (NUIG) whose research involves physical activity and how mobile technologies
can increase exercise adherence.

I first read this post on Ted’s blog a couple of months ago and was happy to say “yes please” when he kindly offered to cross post it here. Ted, although a PC user, has an ipad and knows how to make it work for him in his research. Here’s how:

While at the Greek conference in June (yes the same conference at the time of the riots), people were sharing how they have structured their research and what technologies they use to keep organized – from iPads to websites.

I pulled out my laptop and soon had a dozen people watching over my shoulder too see how I have set things up.  This system might not be perfect and might not work for everyone, but it has worked great for me.


I am lucky enough to have a forward thinking advisor (Dr. John Breslin) who is on the cutting edge of technology. Since I already had a laptop when I started my PhD, he allowed me to use the funds that would have paid for a laptop for an iPad.  I’ve always been a Windows kinda guy, don’t think I will be switching anytime soon, but do enjoy my iPhone and iPad and would be lost without them.  Having my research on my iPad makes working too easy.  I often take my iPad to bed with me, read a few papers before drifting off to dreams of how my research will make a difference in this world…..

Drop Box

Since I love being virtual and working from anywhere (be from my home office in Galway, at the office at the University, a train in China, the airport in Athens or even from my Dad’s 10 acre 150 year old farmhouse in Erie, PA), I wanted a place to store all my files. Any file you save to Dropbox also instantly saves to your computers, phones, and the Dropbox website.  I’ve found the site to be a fantastic and as you will see below, many of my research tools connect somehow to Dropbox.

In fact, I use it so much and have so many saved papers to read, I had to buy additional storage.  I love that I can save a paper in the Dropbox folder on my laptop and within seconds, the paper is synced to the cloud and available from a secure log in, my iPad, my desktop, even my iPhone.  I can also share papers with collaborators.  Super easy to use.

Google Scholar

Most of the papers I use for research purposed I’ve found using Google Scholar.  I find the university library system to be too confusing.  90% of the papers I want are free to download from Google Scholar, those that aren’t I pull from the library.


A real time saver in my opinion.  iAnnotate turns your iPad into a world-class productivity tool for reading, annotating, organizing, and sending PDF files.  Rather than printing papers to read, I use iAnnotate on my iPad to pull my saved readings from my Dropbox and read on the go.

No hassle of stacks of papers to carry around.  The handy annotation tools allow me to highlight pieces of text I want to reference, email the newly saved highlighted paper with all of the highlighted text pulled out of the PDF and placed into the body of the email.  From my Outlook, it is a quick cut and paste into my master notes files.


I call Mendeley my LinkedIn profile for my academic life. Not only does it allow me to connect with fellow researchers from around the globe and gives me a custom website to showcase my research, it also keeps track of every saved PDF that I read for research.  I’ve tried EndNote a few times but had major issues.   Mendeley connects directly to my Dropbox, and runs a comparison check with Google Scholar for verification.  Not 100% accurate, but good enough to get most of the information populated. For those papers I end up using, I can quickly modify as needed.


In my corporate career, I learned the importance of having some sense of order in how things get done.  I am a big fan of David Allen’s book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (See all Time Management Books),but wanted a portable real time system where I could create my projects and decide on my next action items from my iPad.  I recently found Nozbe and it does just that.  I’ve planned out my research using this online tool, from deadlines to meetings, word count goals to paper submissions.

There you have it, the six tools I use to manage my PhD research.  Do you have a system of your own that you’d like to share?  Editor’s note: Ted’s system runs largely off the ipad, I wonder if anyone else out there uses Android wants to tell us in the comments about equivalent apps for that system – or do a companion post? 

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