Find information faster, archive it better, and easily return to it with these 5 research tools which have become an essential part of my workflow.
Open Link in a New Tab with a Shortcut
While less of a tool and more of a shortcut, I have to start here. When I begin searching, I am confronted with a list of results from Google with only a few words to reveal the content and value of the webpages I am about to upturn. Instead of breaking my search into a linear operation:
Review search results ⇒ Click 1st link which opens and replaces search results ⇒ Review content of 1st link ⇒ Browse back to search results ⇒ Repeat with 2nd link
I prefer to review the list of results, open the most auspicious ones, then visit them one at a time to review their content all without losing my original search results:
Review search results ⇒ Command + Click 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th links to open in other tabs while staying within search results ⇒ Visit opened links and evaluate content ⇒ Return to search results and refine search
For this second workflow to work, I need a very simple keyboard shortcut to allow me to open a link in a new tab without losing focus of the tab I am currently in.
Command + Click (MAC) or Control + Click (WINDOWS) = Open Link in a New Tab
I don’t remember how the Internet worked before this very simple research hack.
Google Search Operators
Google allows for a long list of smooth search operators of which I regularly use none but three:
will yield results from a specific site (e.g.: site:nytimes.com for the New York Times) or from a specific top level domain (TLD) (e.g.: “site:.edu” for educational sites)
"Expressions within quotes"
will yield results with the exact words in the same order
will yield specific file types. A particularly powerful tool if you are looking for a specific PDF (filetype:pdf), or presentation (filetype:ppt).
Save a Webpage to Read Later with Pocket
This one archival tool is very simple yet extremely effective. I run into this situation daily. I happen upon an article which I am interested in, but now is just not the right time to engage with it. I could bookmark it, but as you know, I use bookmarks for speedy access to resources, not to archive articles. I could open the webpage and save its tab for later, but who knows when I will get the chance to read it. Instead, and for the past 3 years, I have been using a web app called Pocket, which has greatly increased my productivity. In one click (thanks to its browser extension), Pocket lets me save any number of resources, no further steps required.
When comes reading time, I can open the list of saved articles and an informative grid displays all my resources.
Pocket also offers another great feature. It lets you read saved articles in a clean interface focused on the content and devoid of menus, sidebars, advertisements. Furthermore, the Pocket app for smartphones and tables syncs content and makes it available offline which means that when my two-year old falls asleep on the plane, I can finally catch up with all my reading!
This is clearly a good segment because Google recently emulated the functionality in its Google Saves app.
NOTE: Similarly, I have begun to really enjoy the Watch It Later playlist for videos in YouTube.
Run a Search Directly within Google docs with the Research Tool
By now, all Tekiota readers will have ditched Microsoft Word for Google Doc. If you are looking for yet another reason why Google Docs is better, just launch the Research feature from the Tools menu. It gives you access to Google search results that can be directly dragged and dropped inside your document. Easily add a link to the original website and cite your sources in a footnote automatically created for you.
Take Rich Notes in Evernote
I keep to-do lists on paper and in plain text apps. But when the research gets deeper, the rich features of Evernote have allowed me to keep track of all I need. I tried Evernote multiple times over the years but found that it works best for lengthy research projects which includes many references.
One of my favorite features is the possibility to include other files (pdf, documents, presentations) directly into a note, a task which otherwise would require these resources to be organized in a folder on my computer.
Also noteworthy is the ability to collaborate, an essential skill to have for cloud apps.
More Research Tools
What other research tools can you not live without? Let us know by writing a short comment below.