Paperpile makes me more productive

One of the first things I tell my new research stu­dents is to use a ref­er­ence man­age­ment sys­tem to help them keep track of the papers they read, and to assist in cre­at­ing bib files for their bib­li­og­ra­phy. Most of them use Mende­ley, one or two use Zotero. Both do a good job and both are free.

I use nei­ther. I did use Mende­ley for sev­eral years (and blogged about it a few years ago), but it became slower and slower to sync as my ref­er­ence col­lec­tion grew. Even­tu­ally it sim­ply couldn’t han­dle the load. I have over 11,000 papers in my col­lec­tion of papers, and I was spend­ing sev­eral min­utes every day wait­ing for Mende­ley just to update the database.

Then I came across Paper­pile, which is not so well known as some of its com­peti­tors, but it is truly awe­some. I’ve now been using it for over a year, and I have grown to depend on it every day to keep track of all the papers I read, and to cre­ate my bib files. Con­tinue reading →

Managing research ideas

I received this email today:

Dear Pro­fes­sor Hyn­d­man,
I was won­der­ing if you could maybe give me some advice on how to orga­nize your research process. I am able to search the lit­er­a­ture on a cer­tain topic and iden­tify where there is a ques­tion to work with. My main dif­fi­cult is to orga­nize my paper anno­ta­tions in order to help me to guide my research process, i.e, how to man­age the infor­ma­tion gath­ered in those papers to com­pose and struc­ture a doc­u­ment which can rep­re­sent the research devel­oped so far.
I have been look­ing at dif­fer­ent tools such scrivener, Qiqqa, papers2, etc but I am not sure if one of these tools would be the right way to go. To be hon­est I am not even sure a tool would do what I am look­ing for, not just orga­nize ref­er­ences and anno­tate pdfs but to get more con­trol of my research process.
I appre­ci­ate if I could get your thoughts on this subject.

Con­tinue reading →

Makefiles for R/​LaTeX projects

Updated: 21 Novem­ber 2012

Make is a mar­vel­lous tool used by pro­gram­mers to build soft­ware, but it can be used for much more than that. I use make when­ever I have a large project involv­ing R files and LaTeX files, which means I use it for almost all of the papers I write, and almost of the con­sult­ing reports I pro­duce. Con­tinue reading →

Blogs about research

If you find this blog help­ful (or even if you don’t but you’re inter­ested in blogs on research issues and tools), there are a few other blogs about doing research that you might find use­ful. Here are a few that I read.

I’ve cre­ated a bun­dle so you can sub­scribe to all of these in one go.

Of course, there are lots of sta­tis­tics blogs as well, and blogs about other research dis­ci­plines. The ones above are those that con­cen­trate on generic research issues.

Following authors on Google Scholar

A great new fea­ture has been added to Google Scholar Cita­tions. For those authors who have set up a cita­tions page, it is now pos­si­ble to get email alerts for any new arti­cles they pub­lish, or for any new cita­tions of their arti­cles. So you can track cita­tions to your own work this way, and stay up-​​to-​​date with key authors in your field.

Set­ting up a Google Cita­tions page is super-​​easy and was already worth doing. This new func­tion­al­ity is another rea­son to do it. After all, as researchers we want peo­ple to read our stuff, so we might as well make it as easy as pos­si­ble for peo­ple to find what we write.

To set up your Google Cita­tions page, go to scholar​.google​.com/​c​i​t​a​tions.

To fol­low an author, find their cita­tions page and look for the “Fol­low this author” box at the top right of the page.

Hope­fully, Google will add RSS feeds as an option in the future as I’d much rather get alerts that way then by yet more email in my inbox.

Organizing travel

Whether trav­el­ling to a sem­i­nar or con­fer­ence, or just hav­ing a hol­i­day, using a travel orga­nizer can make the process sim­pler and eas­ier. A good travel orga­nizer keeps all your travel details (flights, hotels, car rentals, meet­ings, weather fore­casts, etc.) orga­nized and synced to what­ever devices you use (two com­put­ers, an iPad and an iPhone in my case). Con­tinue reading →

Researcher portals

A researcher por­tal is a web­site that attempts to list all the pub­li­ca­tions of a given researcher. Some por­tals also allow shar­ing papers, inter­act­ing with other researchers, cal­cu­lat­ing cita­tion sta­tis­tics, etc. Every researcher wants their work read and cited, so these web­sites can be use­ful tools for get­ting your work noticed. They can also func­tion as a de facto home page if you don’t already have a per­sonal web­site. Con­versely, they can be a good way to find new work by researchers in your field. How­ever, unless a site pro­vides a rel­a­tively com­plete list of your pub­li­ca­tions, and cov­ers a large pro­por­tion of the research com­mu­nity in your dis­ci­pline, it is of lim­ited value. Con­tinue reading →

Use Mendeley to manage your references

Every researcher col­lects large num­bers of papers, ref­er­ences, and notes, and it is impor­tant to have a good sys­tem to keep them all orga­nized. For many years I had sev­eral thou­sand papers all num­bered and stored in fil­ing cab­i­nets, with a JabRef data­base pro­vid­ing an index to them.

These days, it’s much eas­ier to have every­thing stored elec­tron­i­cally, and so I have accu­mu­lated many pdfs (about 1300 so far) of pub­lished arti­cles. But the prob­lem of being able to find some­thing fast is still important.

Mende­ley is a free soft­ware tool for man­ag­ing your ref­er­ence data­base. It actu­ally solves many prob­lems simul­ta­ne­ously and is likely to become an impor­tant part of how I work. Con­tinue reading →

In praise of Dropbox

Every cou­ple of years, a new tech­nol­ogy has a big impact on how I work. Gmail was one. My iPhone was another. And I rank Drop­box in the same category.

I get three huge ben­e­fits in using Drop­box:

  1. All my files are backed up online. The house can burn down and I know I can still get my files. Also, if I’m away from my desk­top or lap­top, I can still access my files on my iPhone. Online backup is the only sen­si­ble backup strategy.
  2. My two main com­put­ers are kept in sync. When I fin­ish work in my uni office, I can go home know­ing that every­thing I’ve done dur­ing the day will be already on my home PC when I arrive home. And when I go to my uni office, every­thing I’ve done on my home PC will already be on my uni PC when I get to work. I never have to think about what files I will need; they will all be there.
  3. Drop­box pro­vides a sim­ple ver­sion con­trol sys­tem. Other peo­ple use ser­vices like github and bazaar, but I find them far more com­pli­cated than I need. When I edit or delete files, Drop­box keeps pre­vi­ous ver­sions in case I wish to restore them (up to 30 days nor­mally, but for­ever if you pay a bit more). With a cou­ple of clicks I can roll­back to a pre­vi­ous ver­sion, or down­load a pre­vi­ous ver­sion and use a file com­par­i­son tool to see the changes made since that version.

The best thing is that I get those ben­e­fits with­out any work! Once installed, Drop­box just does its stuff seam­lessly in the background.

For up to 2Gb, it is free. I pay $99 per year for 50Gb. If you sign up as a result of this post, you get an addi­tional 250Mb free (and I get another 500Mb — although I’d say all of the above regard­less). Avail­able for Win­dows, Mac or Linux.