In those last moments in a PhD where the thesis begins to take shape..

Nine years ago seems like a lifetime away and in reflection it was a whole shift in life, from educational technologist slash entrepreneur through to exhausted penniless pauper.

Ever the enthusiast and with gritty determination the transcription of fifty (50) interviews by hand, alone took two years in between life challenges.

The manuscript has shifted between Microsoft Word then to Scrivener then Google Docs and back to Scrivener. Thank god for Scrivener.

Likewise the same for Leximancer, Gliffy and not forgetting the king of it all, Paperpile. So that is what I’m focussing on here in this article, being technologies that make and shape our research journey.

Figure: Smartphones


The composition of a thesis is like a handbag that things get eternally lost in. You know what I mean… its in there somewhere and it is going to take a whole heap of rummaging around in there to find things.

So ‘things’ start to emerge as a theme whilst tapping away at first in great enthusiasm in a word processor, compiling data in a folder within folders until it all folds into a soup.

Data Management

Without a doubt having a secure place to store and access data such as photos, papers, notes is critical to a writers success, but what of all those websites you are visiting and finding all those interesting articles within?

The journey will be clear when you look back through your bookmarks in Diigo, a social (if you wish) bookmarking low-cost memory keeper. With an internal folder system it has made filing away all those PhD specific sites a breeze.

Likewise, when I’ve located a PDF or a website that I’m keen to add to the platinum list the only reference management tool (believe me, I’ve tested them all) is Paperpile.

Online, connected through Google Docs, the Paperpile service is a one-click to complete meta platform, a dream application and always evolving, hopefully never swallowed up the literary giants.


The switch here is in pointing out Gliffy in which I’ve composed numerous ‘figures’ and flow charts and semantic maps that have made it so much easier to bring these mind-made visions to fruition.

It is also a low cost tool and well worth the investment knowing that if you want to bring an idea into a visual figure worthy of publication then it is on hand.


Then there is the authoring gold of Scrivener, just simply awesome in all ways.

Its rapid, easy to navigate and allows for all those notes to come into key themes, over and up into chapters made up of subsections, sections within sections that can be collapsed and dragged around with ease.

Microsoft Word and other formatting tools just wont cut it and when bringing the core written word together then having Scrivener in place allows that ‘…damn crashed again’ to disappear from the worry list.


There are so many visualisation tools around but none more comprehensive in the qualitative field as Leximancer.

An expensive monthly plan will let you bring in your transcripts, notes and papers for a visual analysis beyond anything you might care to otherwise imagine.

Then there is Atlas.TI and then there is Antidote and ProWriting Aide and the list goes on.

So anyway, where is the thesis at you ask? The answer is clear and the clouds are clearing in Google Docs which my Supervisor has access to.

Even though in LaTeX I should be compiling it all in eventually the most important thing of all is knowing that when I wake up one day it will all be over.

Then the examiners will get a hold of it and rip it apart and I have unenviable task of fixing all those errors I missed.



Artist. He, him, Dr.

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