Remember the brave girl trudging in the flood – Use digital gadgets wisely for your study

Copyright to original resourcesJust on Jan 28 a few years ago (2013 to be precise), a Youtube video filming a girl trying to go against the flood on McTavish Street went viral, and I remembered that although I was not on site, the flood coming from a pierced main pipe connecting to the reservoir really caused tons of trouble and turned all lower campus to swamp. The girl struggled for a few minutes and decided just to go with the flow, which is actually a brave move in front of all the people staring at her.

Social media is such a powerful and sometimes even evil tool to broadcast what you have seen and what you want to say. We all live with our phones with facebook, instagram, reddit, buzzfeed, you name it. The flood of information is so hard to resist and we just sit down and get swept away by it. However, not only you, great minds also use social media to preach their beliefs and share their experiences. Of course, the whole world is building up an empire of knowledges in the cloud named Internet, and it’s better for us to master its usage to save us time and go paperless.

If you are a researcher and get too lazy to open websites one by one, your smartphone is a hub – download the apps for major journals and just click them. It is not necessary to take a few hours on ASAP literature or hot papers per day, but scrolling these fresh research results is a must to keep your mind fresh. If you follow some tech-savvy researcher through Twitter, ResearchGate or LinkedIn, they usually publish their newest accomplishments via social media. You can get up-to-date information not only for new articles, but also conferences they are organizing, new job posts from their colleagues, and the intellectual communications they are involved in with other bright minds.

Subscription to some digital journals if needed – they usually provide discounts if you are online user. Luckily, we are McGill students, so if we are on McGill network (or VPN), we have access to most of the major journals (for free!). You can read Nature or Science easily at home and get to know the edgy research in various fields. We also have the privilege to read millions of books, and if you are too lazy to scan some paper copies, ask your librarian to help, and you can receive what you want from emails.

When writing our essays, critiques, literature reviews, scientific articles, or theses, you don’t want to miss anything important, such as key papers in the field and newest results to support your opinion. McGill has empowered us to search in gigantic databases like Web of Science and Scopus, and we can benefit from free EndNote for our well-organized, properly styled reference list. My sincere apology for not knowing sufficiently well on search engines for students in humanities, but your librarian is the best person to ask.

Since I am an advocate for going paperless and saving the trees, organizing your files on cloud drives like Dropbox/Google Drive/iCloud can save you tons of minutes when searching for literature. You can take them anywhere, and I have mentioned before that my files stored online saved my life before an important interview. Now I’m starting to take notes on my tablet using a stylus (which is actually not new tech), and realize that it is really handy. Those mobile tablets are not only for watching videos, but extremely powerful for scribbling and taking notes.

In Dan Brown’s new book Origin, the Steve Jobs-like futurist predicted that human beings would co-exist with a new kingdom of species (technologies). I quote his words here just to show how influential technologies has become in our lives. With the explosion of knowledge, we’d better handle the paddle and steer our boat firmly in the flood of 0 and 1s.

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