Dissertation: There’s an App for that

by | December 27, 2011

Like any year, the week between Christmas and New Year’s serves as a period to pause and reflect on where we’re been and where we’re going. This year proved no exception. This year, my wife and I gifted a Kindle Fire to my seven-year-old son. True to form, he took to it immediately and without incident, while his technologically declined father spent the first few hours reading directions, blogs, chats and reviews about the pros and cons of the device. It should come as no surprise, noting my son learned a computer login name before he could even spell or write his own. Yet, his savvy to this new technology (new to me) continues to astound me and reminds me that his generation is learning how to process and compartmentalize information differently and far more rapidly than I will likely ever fully grasp (perhaps we chalk that up to the natural process of aging). In the course of this reflection, however, it gave me pause to think about how he might experience a dissertation. In the world of apps, ebooks, Google and social media, how might the activity of independent research look different?

Well certainly not exhaustive, my initial search effort did not disappoint. A few key highlights:

Google: A range of searches (dissertation research, dissertation writing, dissertation proposal examples, etc.) all yielded millions of results inclusive of professional services, tips, grants, professional help, software, and examples.

eBooks: Google (Books) again did not disappoint, with more than 28.6 million books on dissertation. Similarly, a simple search of “dissertation” in the Kindle Store quickly returned over 200 self-help, step-by-step, writing your dissertation fifteen minutes a day with 101+ tips and techniques.

Apps: As I turned my attention to the million+ apps, I found a wealth of resources on gathering and filing information (DEVONagent, DEVONthink, Notebook, Papers), statistics (SPSS, Strata, MathMagic), reference management (Sente, Bookends, Endnote, BibDesk), project management (Notebook, Process, Think, The Hit List), mindmapping (Xmind, Freemind, Mindnode, Inspiration), and more (Scrivener, PDFpen, GraphClick).

Facebook and YouTube: Admittedly, I have yet to fully immerse in the worlds of Facebook or YouTube, but even my novice search yielded a plethora of groups and videos dedicated to dissertating.

Invariably, by the time I learn to master and integrate such resources, my son will be old enough to suggest to me that “new knowledge” is only as good as yesterday’s technology. So as we leave 2011 behind and reflect on our resolutions for the new year, consider, how are you dissertating?

One Response to "Dissertation: There’s an App for that"

  1. Katherine says:

    My father worked for the National Security Agency during the Cold War. I still can’t get the federal government to release the details of his work. I do know that he was a physicist with a specialty in cryptology. He did tell us (the family) that all communication could be represented by zeros and ones. We knew Daddy was genius, we just thought he was just being his usual eccentric self. Daddy only told us a few things that in hindsight I’m sure he would have lost his job if the NSA knew. I started using computers in the mid-eighties and realized that my Dad, unlike Al Gore, did help create the Internet. Internet history discusses that it was a highly top secret communication system developed by NSA in the event of nuclear war.

    I am 54 years young, an older than average parent, and have my own eccentricities than I have learned to embrace rather than suppress. (Getting my PhD will help the world around me to accept my eccentricities.) Given my unique family history, I happen to be a baby-boomer ready and willing to be taught anything new by my nine and seven year old children. I love to surf serendipitously and I’m teased about being the “Queen of Trivia”. Rather than being slow to compartmentalize as we age, I believe it occurs when we surrender to being an adult; flights of fancy into our own creativity are no longer appropriate because “it’s not what responsible adults do.”

    I have to be honest that very few blogs ever catch my attention. Your title was a perfect “hook” for me. I am a PhD student, Nursing Education.

    My background is operating room (OR) nursing. In the OR, the highest levels of technology available for patient care are condensed in the OR. OR with brain suites have huge plasma screen monitors to project exactly what the doctor is seeing through the ceiling mounted digitally controlled operative microscope. The OR table for the patient is adapted to also function as an MRI table. There is a MRI machine in the room off to one side. For a brain suite, this is the tip of the iceberg.

    So in spite of being at the tail end of the baby boomers and a nurse, I love technology. My professional goals are focused on how to maximize education technology in undergraduate nursing programs.

    Thank you for this presentation of information and the variety of choices. It is refreshing to hear a CU professor discuss all of the available options rather than just discussing one or two. I say in light of how many of my fellow students think they can only use the technology assistance/programs listed by their professor of record or by CU.

    When limiting recommendations, students may or may not be able to master the few recommended programs when another available program may be easier for the student; similar to individualized learning styles. I find using Mendeley Desktop easier and more convenient because it catalogs my downloaded references and the references I’ve previously used in my papers with a big advantage over Refworks. Mendeley resides on my laptop so I don’t need an internet connection. My writing isn’t slowed down because I can add my stored citations without having to do it later; increasing my chances for failing to cite.

    The price of particular software can also become an issue. Microsoft Excel© is able to perform all of the required statistical calculations for the first required research course. How many students have to keep repurchasing SPSS? I just finished my first of three research course. My professor instructed students to purchase a 6 months license. The statistical formulas were simple enough that I could have created all of the tables I needed in Excel©. I purchased a one year license and am planning to take the next two research classes over the next two quarters. I was advised to wait until I was closer to my dissertation to take the next two research courses. If I do that, I will have to repurchase SPSS. I’m not eligible for any student financial assistance including scholarships due to my husband’s salary so we are barely financially afloat. The same professor told the class that we would not need SPSS to complete any of the other research classes. If my interpretation of the course catalog, he was incorrect and we will need SPSS for future research courses. And by the way, the SPSS tutorials on YouTube taught me how to use it. The Supplemental Instructor was an idiot that required me to lose 4 hours a week listening to her in an online supplemental synchronous class.

    I prefer online books. When I was going through the admission process, I was told that nearly all of my books would be online and available through the CU library. Not true. My issue is the price of the books and the selected books for courses. I’ve taken three courses to this point. I purchased all of the required books. I don’t take issue with purchasing a book that is going to be used for a class. I do take issue when we are required to purchase books that are either not used at all or only used for one or two chapters.

    “There’s an App for that” for nearly anything any one wants to do or is curious about. I took the CU app off my phone and simply made a bookmark in Safari because the student mobile app is so poor. If you use it, you have to log into each class and then still have to log in to the main website if you want to reply to someone or look at previously view postings. My seven year old son watched me one time trying to get on and as he walked off he stated, “What a waste of time.”

    You and I both had reflections and have made plans for the future this past weekend. My question is has Capella made any plans for the future?