There are many tools that can help you organize information you find, from social web platforms and browser-based extensions, to specialized software applications. Everyone has a personal preference and you might be using a few tools to manage information already. Whatever the case, it is good practice to keep your personal and professional research organized. The tools below are organized by level of complexity, from easiest to use to the most complex.
Browsers, like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, allow you to store information as bookmarks and organize links in folders. For example, Chrome, a browser developed by Google, gives you access to all of your bookmarks from a number of different devices when you are logged in with your Google account.
Bookmarking is an easy way to keep all of your findings in one place.
Social Discovery Tools
Social bookmarking and productivity tools help organize information, as well as share it with others. Social discovery is the process through which people can find and connect with others, as well as share and find information. Social networking platforms like: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, promote online social interaction and content sharing, as do content discovery tools, such as Pocket, Feedly, Diigo.
Benefits to using social tools to store your research are:
- Research, store and retrieve on the go – available anywhere, anytime, from any device
- Cloud storage – content does not take up room on your device and the information is always available
- Social discovery and sharing – enable you to share your content and find sources others have shared
The disadvantages of using social tools to store your research are:
- Cloud storage – your information sits on an external server; if the server goes down, access to your content is temporarily lost.
- Dependence on wireless connection (Wi-Fi)/data plan – no internet connection equals no access to your information (unless there is an offline option).
- Privacy concerns – storing sensitive research data online may not meet your privacy standards.
Here are some examples of social bookmarking and productivity/note taking tools. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of others and that the tools are always changing.
If you are thinking of doing more in-depth research, consider keeping your information organized in specialized software, specifically a reference management tool. Reference managers help keep complete bibliographic information of an item, which is: title, author, publication source and date, etc., and some also allow for upload of the complete document (if applicable), and note taking. Two groups that use reference managers a lot are students (college and university) and researchers.
You have now worked through all six steps of the research cycle. As they say, Practice makes perfect, so put some of your newly learned skills into practice, and remember that critical evaluation is by far the most important research skill to master.