Being a modern student

Coming back to study at university after a 15 break was bound to be a challenge.  To be honest, I did not know what to expect.  My years of working with WWF were marked with enormous amounts of job satisfaction.  One of the reasons it took so long to come back to start my PhD was that I loved working on marine conservation.  I got to do exactly what I had wanted to do all my life.  But it was also marked by massive levels of stress and week after week with daily schedules packed completely full with meetings, meetings and more meetings.  That only left my free time to complete reports and try to do any real work.  Coming back to school was going to be a luxury to focus on just one thing.  And it has been… kind of.

During my Bachelor and Master degrees I spent hours and hours in the library stacks searching through journals and standing at the photocopier.  I was always better at finding interesting articles than I was at reading them and processing them.  In my 3 years at Kyoto University, I haven’t photocopied a single paper.  Now its all digital.  There are no more card catalogs.

My Kindle is one of my favorite tools.  When I started the PhD, I got a Kindle and hoped to read journal articles on it.  Mostly this was to avoid printing and printing and printing.  Unfortunately, that Kindle was not good at processing PDF files.  It was nearly impossible to read a PDF on that device.  I had a great service that made the conversions for me, but they were clumsy.  Then I lost that kindle.


I broke down and bought another Kindle last year.  This was the 2nd Generation Kindle Paperwhite.  Its has the same kind of functions as my previous one, but it is touchscreen, has a back-lit screen, and is much more versatile.  Amazon has created several features that convert the PDF journal articles to Kindle format and I can simply email papers to the Kindle.  It doesn’t do well for charts and tables but it does a great job with text.

I also read for a bit of pleasure with the Kindle and the amount of material you can find online, for free, is enormous.  With Kindle’s great “Send to Kindle” button my Firefox web browser I can even email webpages to my Kindle to read later.

My other favorite tool is Mendeley.  Mendeley is a free service that helps to keep track of academic papers.  It organizes all my PDFs, gives them keywords, and can integrate with MS Word to create bibliographies.  This makes everything so much easier to manage and access.

Screenshot of my Mendeley online library.

Screenshot of my Mendeley online library.

Lastly, I use Evernote to keep track of my notes on the readings.  I am now linking Evernote to my Kindle so that the passages I highlight when I’m reading get automatically sent to Evernote.  Its amazing.

Great time to be a student.  These tools are stunning.  Information is so much easier to find.  But, I do miss the long hours in the library.

One response to “Being a modern student

  1. This is good description of research work and gave me some ideas… I do not use Kindle for reading PDFs but download them to my Mac directly I find this more practical. As for taking notes my problem is that I read in English and French and write in Arabic, so I have to translate all my notes before filing them… Tough…

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