Getting Started: Running List of Must-Have Researcher Tools

  1. Your researcher’s journal. Research life will be PAINFUL if you don’t commence the journey with this and impose a low- to mid-level amount of organization to it. TAKE MY WORD FOR IT AND DON’T LEARN THIS THE HARD WAY. It can be a simple physical notebook, and electronic online journal, a product that merges the two into one . . . or you can use some combination of two or more.
  2. Zotero and Mendeley. Note: Even if eventually you will use a bibliography and citation manager OTHER than Zotero, BEGIN with it. It’s FREE, web-browser based, and thus will enable you to spontaneously toss anything there no matter what computer your own. Zotero speaks to Mendeley and you can get it to speak to Endnote.
  3. Destination Dissertation. This book was handed out by the hundreds at AERA the year I attended. It’s value? Get it for the soothing, calming, centering advise and GLOBAL perspective that will not contradict the specific advise your advisor(s) will give. When the journey feels lonely, this book speaks encouragement and whispers, “It makes sense to keep going” to your heart.
  4. A Noodletools account. It’s almost scary how easy this web-based application renders the process of maintaining a working/running bibliography! Also absolutely INVALUABLE is that you can create notecards with direct quotes, your ideas about or paraphrase of the quote, all attached to the citation. You can tag and stack and sequence notecards. You can OUTLINE your paper and export your notes and automatically generated bibliography to google docs. These capabilities and affordances JUSTIFY the small yearly fee.
  5. If it’s been a while since you’ve written, or your need to brush up on your writing skills, or you never really were a writer, the following DO contain excellent advice for orienting yourself as a WRITER. (I’ve purchased a ton of writing helps books, and these are the real deal in my book!)
    1. Effective Writing: The skill of writing via successive outlining. Then, the skill of sentence-writing and paragraph-writing FROM outlines.A winning strategy.
    2. The Quick Writing Process: The skill of DUMPING what you DO know and can articulate, no matter how raw, and then working from THAT (no matter how messy it feels) to get to your final product. Part of what’s had me stalled is trying to write in polished sentences from the get-go. Bad idea. Writing is a private thinking process before it is a public communication. Drafting is required–it’s THINKING. Draft revision is going to be NECESSARY — It is THINKING.
    3. The Elements of Writing.
  6. A digital audio recorder that you allow yourself to get accustomed to having at your disposal just about always. (In the car. On the nightstand next to your bed. In your school book bag). When you get a burst of inspiration, whether it’s in the middle of the night or whenever, simply grab it, turn it on, speak your mind no matter how groggy, and be at peace that your dynamic, spontaneous, serendipitous ideas if ever forgotten are retrievable!

I’ll add more as prudent, so please stay tuned. As always, your comments and feedback are greatly appreciated by all readers and viewers, me included! 😛

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