Graduate Student Must Do’s, Must Have’s (my running list, last updated 7/28/13)

Last Updated: July 25, 2013


  • BOTH online and offline backup of your computer (you must have both simultaneously): I use SpiderOak (because it’s zero knowledge), I have an external hard drive that I back up to once  a week, and I have DropBox (but I don’t use it too, too much. Others live by it! :)).
  • Your for-your-eyes-only researcher’s journal: I use, a Livescribe notebook, and an IdeaMason portfolio (please see the information about IdeaMason below).
  • A program for time, task, and project management, with a calendar for scheduling: I use LiquidPlanner (I subscribed for free educational use) and have found none better. I sync it to my smart phone.
  • A reverse calendar that you constantly update: This web utility will generate one for you: I made mine in LiquidPlanner, which I used for free by applying for free, educational use.
  • Mendeley: For collecting and organizing your PDFs (articles, books, PDFs you’ve created, etc.). IF your research entails dealing with a lot of snapshot/clips from the internet, you might want to use Zotero–either alternatively or in addition to Mendeley.
  • Something to record audio: If not for collecting data, then for recording sessions with your advisors/editors and for recording your own thinking. I use my Smartphone, or my Livescribe pen with Livescribe notebook (for advisors/editors meetings), or Xmind (the mindmapping tool that allows you to record audio and attach it to a node).
  • IdeaMason (or something with its functionality): For organizing your writing and writing-related research. I share six or so short video demos of how I use Idea Mason at this post on my other blog. For me, nothing else compares. Unless Scrivener truly is the key to your writing momentum (and I know folks who’ve tried both and feel Scrivener “wins” hands down), choose IdeaMason over Scrivener (it’s less expensive, is tailored for academic writing, citing, writing-related research,etc.). If using a Mac, run Windows parallel so that you can run IdeaMason. IMPORTANT NOTE: For my operating system, initially IdeaMason did not export to MS Word. A quick email to IdeaMason’s developers remedied that. The IdeaMason–>MS Word export capability rocks!
  • Citavi (or something with its functionality): For knowledge management, notes and quotes management, analytic memo-making, and bibliography management. Citavi is like an external brain that is ridiculously tailored for academic knowledge, bibliography, and citation management. As of July 25, 2013, I’ve found NOTHING THAT COMPARES, especially regarding making knowledge management simple. If using a Mac, please know that a web-based version is in the works, but in the meanwhile, run Windows parallel so that you can run Citavi. NOTE: Regarding alternatives, you might try DEVONthink (Mac) or DEVONnote (Mac) or Evernote. I found DEVONthink to have a significant learning curve and to be overkill for my liking, but . . . it might be awesome, and some folks find it to be wondeful for them. And while many people swear by Evernote, I never got why. And I tried!!! 🙂 In conclusion: In my opinion, if you are thinking long term, even if you prefer a different program for managing your references and bibliographies, you still truly *need* Citavi (or something incredibly similar) for long-term knowledge management.


  • A high-yield printer at home
  • An app that turns your snapshots into PDFs, to capture snapshots of book pages as PDFs (I use such an app on my smart phone)
  • Banker’s boxes to hold old drafts, file folders containing articles you’ve printed, etc.

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