Ask LH: What Tools Should I Use For A Computer Science PhD?

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Ask LH: What Tools Should I Use For A Computer Science PhD?


Dear Lifehacker, I have decided to start a PhD in Computer Science. Everyone knows starting something new can be overwhelming, and that’s especially true of a PhD, as it requires research in an unstructured environment, not just turning up to classes anymore. I’d like to keep track of what I am doing my research in, why I am doing the research and how to achieve my PhD. Are there any good technologies and tools out there (apart from lovely Evernote and Dropbox) that might make my four-year journey a bit less bumpy? Thanks, Researcher

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Dear Researcher,

We’d definitely like to open this one up to the readers for specific suggestions. But we’ll make a general point first: the basic tools you mention (Evernote and Dropbox) are likely to be the most important. People have been completing degrees for decades without the benefits of these tools, which suggests that a willingness to be organised (and to spend time staying organised) matters more than specific software. But there’s no denying that having a good system for capturing and indexing all your notes (Evernote and similar tools), for automatically backing up everything you work on (Dropbox and its ilk) and for tracking tasks (pick your favourite calendar/to-do program) can save time, letting you concentrate on research itself rather than the processes involved.

Given your focus on computer science within your PhD, you might want to use some more programmer-centric tools (I know people who have used Git to organise their study resources). If those tools feel familiar and natural, go for it — but if you’d prefer something pre-baked with a pretty interface such as OneNote, that’s OK too. The key is to use tools that you find comfortable, so you can concentrate on the actual topic you’re researching.

With that said, we’d love specific recommendations from readers with recent study experience in the comments. What works for you?

Cheers
Lifehacker

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