Embarrassments of riches: Managing research assets

Last updated May 15, 2013

There’s research, there’s writing, and then there’s that netherworld in between: wrangling all the digital files you gather over the course of your work. Digital files are often easier to deal with than stacks of paper, but they can also proliferate frighteningly quickly.

I teach a workshop on this topic, catchily titled Managing Research Assets (better names welcome). Below is a digital version of the workshop handout, followed by a link dump of my favorite posts about developing and refining digital research workflows. You can also download a PDF version of my handout, or a Word version if you’d like to modify it.

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Make tutorials dead-simple with ScreenSteps

ScreenSteps logoIf you’re wondering how I got so fancy with my instructions on how to make a DVD clip reel, I had a trick up my sleeve. ScreenSteps is an application specifically designed to create software tutorials. It has everything you need packed in: screen capture, image notation, links, and text. Because it’s designed specifically for the purpose of creating tutorials, it’s super easy to use.

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My favorite tools: Record and edit audio with Audacity

audacity_logoAudacity is a great choice when you need to edit audio. It’s free, but it’s also pretty full-featured: it can record audio, import and export different file formats, and edit sounds. You can even use it to change the pitch of a recording without altering the tempo, remove static or hiss, or create sound effects.

Personally, I don’t need most of these features, since I’m not about to mix a masterpiece. So for me Audacity’s greatest feature is its user-friendly interface. I can download a Franklin Roosevelt speech from American Rhetoric’s Online Speech Bank, cut it up with Audacity, and drop it into a teaching presentation. Easy!

You can use Audacity with Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems. It’s free, no registration required.

My favorite tools: Download YouTube videos with KeepVid

YouTube logoI’m always kind of scandalized when presenters connect to the Internet to show YouTube videos. I mean, if they want to risk it, fine, but why take the chance? The Internet connection could cut out, the wifi could fail, the connection could be slow, an embarrassing ad could pop up … I think people have the idea that you can’t download videos from YouTube, but it actually couldn’t be simpler. Just enter the address of the video at KeepVid, press “convert,” and there you go: a file in the format of your choice, ready for you to drop into your presentation.

KeepVid also works for other Flash-based video and music sites. It’s free, no registration required.

My favorite tools: Organize ideas with OmniOutliner

Photo by denn.
Photo by denn.

Ugh, the blank page. Nothing sends me spiraling into procrastination faster. OmniOutliner can’t eliminate my fear, but it does help. It’s a little hard to describe this software, because you can use it in a lot of different ways. Its authors describe it as a tool for “idea organization,” and that’s about right. OmniOutliner makes it really easy to make bulleted lists with as many subsections as you want. You can also drag and drop images, files, and webpages right into the document.

I use it in a few different ways.

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