Professor PhD

Nov 16

dez93 said: Hi, great article a while back about Qiqqa. Feels like there's a lot of choice and this seems to be the best. I'm trying to get my head around the difference between zotero and qiqqa currently, and am trying to work out what Qiqqa DOESN'T do that I'll need zotero or others for. Be interested to hear your thoughts. Also, any chance of a quick update (even if it's just strikethroughs of since-enabled features)? Cheers. Dez

Qiqqa’s main (only?) weakness is the bibliographic info which is pulled from Google Scholar instead of directly from journal repositories (like EndNote).  What this means is that you need to proof and manually correct the bib info cited in your papers.  Some of the errors are minor such as inconsistent capitalization, but others are more extensive. 

An updated review is in the works…

Sep 25

Infographic: The Tablet Takeover

Just as laptops once edged out desktops, so tablets have also begun to replace laptops for many users. Tablets have rapidly become the most quickly adopted piece of technology to hit the market in years, and they’re revolutionizing portable computing. Many experts and educators believe that tablets could replace old school textbooks in the near future. If you are a tablet user, then there’s a good chance that you often forgo your old laptop in favor of the easy convenience of a tablet—and if you’re not a tablet user yet, you’d be surprised at how soon that may change…

Tablet Infographic


Apr 22

Glad to see I’m not the only one that does this…

Glad to see I’m not the only one that does this…

Apr 02

Free food does taste better…

Free food does taste better…

(Source: paulisawesome)

Mar 31

Qiqqa Review: Complete Workflow For Research

Qiqqa is a different type of research software. It isn’t just bibliographic software, but a solution to the entire workflow of grad school research. This approach puts it on a whole other level from other research software, but how does it live up to this more comprehensive task?

I actually stumbled upon Qiqqa in the comments section of an article detailing a more well-known bibliographic option about 5 months ago. I was searching for an alternative to the industry-dominating, but frustrating EndNote. While EndNote does citations and bibliographies extremely well, it does almost everything else poorly.  It’s user interface is poor, it doesn’t handle multiple computers well (I juggle 3), and its more powerful features are difficult to master. I realize that there are many scholars that have mastered EndNote and find it a useful tool.  I however chose to spend my time finding a better tool instead of mastering an old one after trying EndNote online.  It was proof enough that the tool won’t be moving where I want it anytime soon.

What initially attracted me to Qiqqa over other options I investigated, such as Mendley and Zotero, was the annotation report. Up to this point, I had largely used iAnnotate on my iPad for reading, highlighting, and notating journal PDFs. I then emailed an annotation report for each article from the iPad to myself, used it to create an outline, wrote my papers and then used EndNote to keep my citations under control stylistically. When I watched the Qiqqa demo video my mouth literally dropped open when it displayed the ability to generate annotation reports from multiple PDFs including figures with the click a mouse! The potential time and hassle savings to me were huge - even more so to someone using a less powerful PDF viewer (as many of my cohort do). 

The option to sync Qiqqa across multiple computers for free (well up to a certain amount of PDFs) was also a nice bonus as well. I religiously use dropbox for all things PhD to keep my home desktop, work desktop, laptop and iPad up to date with the latest version of my projects. 

That was way back in version 32 and Qiqqa is already up to version 40 - another strong reason to switch. Qiqqa releases monthly updates that add new features and polish older ones. This has made this review more difficult as I tried to pin down a moving target while keeping up with my scholastic demands.  Several of my complaints and two suggestions have already been addressed in those updates. The Qiqqa team really does listen to users and work hard to improve their software. Because of this continual improvement, I am going to be a bit of a stickler in this review. Please don’t view this as a reflection of my dislike for the software, but rather a desire to see it reach its full potential.

It should also be pointed out that while Qiqqa is by far the best solution to assist one’s overall research workflow, it does not handle some of the individual tasks as well as other options. But the completeness is the real beauty of using Qiqqa for research. You can use it to assemble, organize, read, highlight and annotate your PDFs, then sync them to your home computer. Later you can start writing from a word doc of all your notations that took 10 seconds to create.  Finally add in properly styled citations with InCite to complete your paper. It really does help one research “qiqqa”. 


Future Potential: the brainstorm and expedition areas show a lot of promise but I can’t call them a strength just yet. However, by fall semester, expedition could be reason enough to switch to Qiqqa.


Developer Suggestions

One last thing to touch on is Qiqqa Premium. Qiqqa’s software is free and you can even use Qiqqa online for free up to 200MB which is actually enough for a single project for most people.  However, I personally think it is worth the $3 a month to get premium. Why? No ads, 8 GB (40x more) online space, and updates! Yes, free users get updates too, but Qiqqa has very reasonable rates to support further software development. Or consider this: how much would you pay to save an hour a week on your research?

So in summary, the bibliographic aspect is Qiqqa’s weakest area but it excels in several other areas - some of which aren’t even offered by the competition. 

Grade: Editor’s Choice Award

Qiqqa Software + Online FREE - Premium Online $3/month

Mar 26

Professor PhD is Moving to Tumblr

That’s right we have kicked our old posterous site to the curb and moved into our new digs here on Tumblr.

I ran both sites for a while and decided I liked tumblr better.  It’s a little weird the hoops one has to jump through to post a high resolution photo inside a story, but other than that it is just fine.  :)

The admin interface is much less frustrating here than at posterous where they really, really, really want you to keep creating spaces.  Create a new space - easy. Post a story - well that’s going to take some doing…  

Anyway, enough about the past… enjoy the new site!

Review: New iPad Mixed Bag For PhD Students

As someone that spends countless hours reading on my iPad, I hit the buy button (figuratively) the moment the retina display iPad went from rumor to reality.  But how does the new iPad screen hype measure up to its PhD duties? Not as well as one might hope.

Some issues are software related such as DocsToGo’s confusion over how big the text is compared to the cursor.  (The pic below is at max zoom.)  But such issues should be fixed soon (hopefully) as apps update to support the retina display.

UPDATE: DocsToGo’s latest update fixed this issue.

Other issues, however, are more PhD-centric and won’t change such as the crispness of PDFs on the display. Most text and graphics are stunning on the new display as seen in the web iPad 2 comparison pic below. 

However, PhD students are going to spend most of their time starting at PDFs (often scanned) of journal articles not the crisply rendered, retina display ready text.  For PDF viewing the gap between the new iPad and the iPad 2 is much smaller.  Newer (more recent) PDFs fare better than older (poorly scanned) ones, but the difference is still fairly small.  As you can see in the screen capture comparison post, the extra pixels aren’t as helpful if they being used to render messy lettering.

But the new screen does win in the end in two ways.  Although small, the added pixels do seem to render a “softer” image that is a little easier on a grad students eyes. Also, it is easier to “snap” to a better zoom level for reading. In iAnnotate (my PDF reader of choice), one will find better rendering of the text when zooming in or out because of the pixels lining up with the PDF lettering.  The extra pixels allow this alignment to happen at a lot more levels which makes it easier to find an “optimum” zoom level for pleasant reading.

Speaking of pleasant reading, I should also quickly note that the new iPad has a more comfortable edge (I always found the iPad 2’s edge a bit sharp).  It is also noticeably heavier.  I didn’t really think the extra 0.1 lbs would make a difference but in long reading sessions I do find the new iPad tires me out faster. This is not a huge difference but it is a noticeable one. 

So in summary, PhD students lusting after the latest iPad should realize that it is superior to the iPad 2 but only by a small margin for scholarly activities.  That coupled with the cost savings of an iPad 2 (especially a used one), makes the decision more of a personal choice based on one’s finances and usage.


Mar 24

Web Text iPad Retina Display vs iPad 2 (click for full size)

Web Text iPad Retina Display vs iPad 2 (click for full size)

Feb 08

Google’s Predictive Text Displays Education’s Importance

When I heard about this I didn’t believe it until I tried it for myself.  Word choice is often associated with (at least the appearance of) intelligence.  Apparently this is even true in one’s Google searches.  See the difference spelling out “an individual” makes over the texting-inspired “u” in the below pics.
Get educated.