A reader writes:
“Dear Academic Productivity,
After having finished a phd project, I am starting a new research project together with a colleague. As a collaborative project requires, well, collaboration and coordination, I wonder if you or perhaps your readers happen to have any good advice, both on best practices and concrete suggestions for web-based collaboration tools.
Some examples of our needs:
* As we’re studying public policy change, the bulk of our empirical material consists of various sorts of text documents (official reports, government bills, parliamentary minutes, media reports, interview transcripts etc.), some of which are available online. I figure we need a searchable database just to keep track of it all; ideally, it should allow us to archive and annotate full-text documents.
* …or even more ideally: a web-based CAQDAS package. Are there any?
* Reference management: Awaiting an online collaboration version of Zotero, what’s the best way of managing references?
* …and/or sharing reading notes and lit reviews? Now we’re just pouring our reading notes into a blog, which is not an optimal solution.
I’m aware of the basic options available (blogs, wikis, project management software etc), but as they are all aimed for other purposes than research, I’m curious to know what tools and practices other researchers actually use.”
For those not in the know (i.e. myself we recevied this email), CAQDAS is an acronym for “Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software,” which can be used to search, organize, categorise, and annotate textual and visual data.
I have asked others the same question as Mr A. Reader, and as of yet I have not found a single tool that captures the needs of academic research groups. I also haven’t encountered any academic research groups that make comprehensive use of online tools, so I would be interested to hear from our readers in the comments.
One tool that might fit the bill is wikindx. It allows shared references and annotations and uploading of documents, though you would need to host your own server for its database. New kid on the block is Mendeley, which we should be reviewing soon. It creates a searchable index of your PDF documents, extracts references from them, and has an online shareable reference management system as well. In the above case, if you converted all your supporting documents to PDF it might fit part of the bill.