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Jenny Baker
/ Categories: TIP, 571

TIP-Topics for Students Top Tech: The Best Technology for Graduate School, as Rated by Graduate Students

Stefanie Gisler, Baruch College and The Graduate Center, CUNY; Bradley Gray, Baruch College and The Graduate Center, CUNY; Jenna-Lyn Roman, Georgia Institute of Technology; & Ethan Rothstein, Baruch College and The Graduate Center, CUNY

As we have discussed in previous columns, I-O graduate students take on a great deal of work, and many experience strain due to overload and/or poor work-life balance (see our column “TIP-Topics for Students: Do We Practice What We Preach? Maintaining Work–Life Balance as an I-O Graduate Student” from the Spring 2018 issue). It can be difficult to keep up with everything from coursework to teaching to conducting research, all while trying to stay on top of the field and the world at large. This column will present an overview of some of the essential tools and software that students can use to keep up with it all. We collected data from 166 I-O graduate students about what tools they use, how helpful they find them to be, and how these tools have impacted their lives. We will discuss tools for staying organized, for keeping up with the latest trends in the field, and for communicating with colleagues. In each section, we will provide info about the most commonly used and highest rated tools based on input we collected from students. In the end, we will break down how students feel about all of this tech use during grad school.

To better understand the purpose of this column, let us state some things that we will not be addressing. First, though this column will discuss some social media platforms, we will not address them from the perspective of how to use them to make an account, how to get followers, whom to follow, or anything along those lines. Additionally, we will not be focusing on best practices for using the tools we discuss. We aim to inform readers about available tools out there, but best practices or how to use them to best benefit the reader will be left up to each individual reader. Also, we will not be discussing design/analysis programs. As interest in other platforms like R and Python continues to grow, as well as new techniques for analysis (e.g., IRT methods) and study creation/administration (e.g., MATLAB, E-Prime, PsyToolKit, eye tracking), there is not enough bandwidth in this column to cover all of these topics. Finally, and most importantly, we will not advocate for any one tool/product over another. We are not looking to sell you on any one tool nor are we getting paid to do so. We seek only to help!

Staying Organized

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it comes to staying on top of the many things you have to do in grad school, having a good way to stay organized is paramount. In this section, we will highlight the five methods that students said they use the most and identified as the most helpful. Also, keep in mind that the more tools you have in your toolkit, the better prepared you may be. The average participant indicated that they use four different tools to help stay organized.

Students said that the most commonly used and one of the most helpful tools for staying organized is a calendar. With 144 out of 166 respondents making use of a calendar, this was the go-to option for most of our sample. Some common calendars that students utilize include the Google Calendar app, calendars available on smartphones, and a good old-fashioned notebook or planner. Calendars provide an easy way to keep track of deadlines, and many technology-based calendars allow you to set reminders before events so they do not sneak up on (or past) you. Better yet, they can sync across multiple devices so your calendar is always with you and always up to date, which is extremely helpful when you have to wear multiple hats (student, teacher, researcher, intern, partner, parent, etc.).

The second most frequently used tool was cloud-based file hosting services such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Overall, students voted that this was the most helpful tool to stay organized. Students appreciate the ability to upload files to a service that they can then access from anywhere they have an Internet connection or cell-phone reception, allowing them to read articles on the go and save from having to print everything out. Additionally, it often comes in handy when sharing files with others, as creating shared folders is a snap.

For Number 3, to-do lists. Especially when used in conjunction with some of these other tools, to-do lists allow you to keep track of the little things, or scaffold the bigger projects looming on your calendar. Some students said they make daily to-do lists, whereas others said they used them more like extensions of their calendars. To-do lists were also used in either electronic or paper-and-pencil/sticky-note form. Common options were Google Keep/Note, Google Assistant/Alexa/Siri reminders, Todoist, Things, another phone app, or planners.

Though used much less frequently than the top three options, reference managers were mentioned by 59 out of 166 participants. These include programs like EndNote, Mendeley, or Zotero. Although some programs must be purchased (i.e., EndNote), there are free programs as well (i.e., Mendeley, Zotero) that can also help you keep your citations organized. Reference managers provide you with a central location to manage the citations for all of the articles you have encountered. Many journal websites or article databases allow you to directly export a citation into a reference-manager program, but manual entry is also available. With some programs, you can also keep your notes about the article along with the citation, so you never lose track of your key takeaways.

Finally, project-management tools were used by 17 participants. These include tools like Teamwork, Teamgantt, or Slack that provide you with a central location to share tasks documents or to have conversations with members of your team. This provides a handy way to keep track of where everyone is on a team project or to quickly ask a question to all other members if you are not all physically together.

Aside from the five most common options, other tools for organization suggested by students were Trello, which allows you to create to do lists and track your progress; email batching (e.g., Boomerang) to choose when to receive all of your emails, instead of receiving a slow distracting trickle throughout the day; and Toggl, a time-tracking service.

Staying Informed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organizations and occupations are constantly changing, and the field of I-O changes with them. As we continue to further our understanding of existing constructs and to discover new ones, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest findings in your area of interest, let alone in other topic areas. Students indicated that their most commonly used tools for staying informed are LinkedIn, research platforms, podcasts, RSS feeds, and a tie between Facebook and Twitter, with the average student utilizing at least three different tools to keep themselves informed. Interestingly, there are some differences between rank orders for the most used tools and those considered most helpful, so perhaps some of these lesser used tools can be added to people’s repertoires.

The most commonly used tool for staying informed was LinkedIn. LinkedIn provides a more professionally focused social-networking experience where you can share what amounts to an online résumé, find contacts, message others, and share articles or other writings. Having a strong presence on LinkedIn can not only help you stay up to date on the field, but it can also bolster your position as a passive job candidate.

Research platforms were the second most commonly used tool. Websites like ResearchGate allow you to create a profile and share your own articles, or to find those written by other researchers. You can set alerts to receive an email whenever a colleague or author of interest has a new publication. Ebscohost and Google Scholar provide quick and easy ways to search for research articles and also allow for alerts.

The third most frequently used tool was podcasts. There are several different I-O themed podcasts available, such as SIOP’s own “The I-O Podcast,” SIOP’s conversation series, the HBR Ideascast, Work Life with Adam Grant, Mind on the Job, Department 12, Mind Your Work, Workr Beeing, and likely many others available or just getting started. Podcasts can provide perspective on a key topic of interest or be an interview with a leading researcher in the field discussing their own findings and future directions. Less than half as many students that use LinkedIn indicated that they listen to podcasts, but overall podcasts were rated more useful for staying informed, so this is a potential tool to which many students can turn.

RSS feeds were the fourth most common tool. Though used less often than other options, RSS feeds were actually rated the most useful tool for staying informed. An RSS feed allows you to keep track of multiple updates in a single location, such as through your email or an RSS aggregating website like Feedly. Most podcasts, blogs, and even journals contain an option to send updates to an RSS feed. This way, instead of having to manually go to each journal’s website to search through new editions, or check their favorite podcast or sites like Harvard Business Review, users can be sent an email whenever new articles or podcasts are published. Similarly, sites like Google Scholar allow you to set up alerts based on key search terms (topics of interest, authors, journals) that will email you new articles that match your search terms.

Finally, there was a tie with Facebook and Twitter, with both being used by 38 students. Although some individuals like to use Facebook to keep up to date with others in the field, some may prefer to keep it tied to their private or social life. Some students responded that they like to use Facebook to keep in touch with others from their program or colleagues with whom they have worked or become close with from conferences. Twitter users, contrariwise, reported often using the platform solely in a professional manner, with some students saying they kept separate personal and professional accounts. I-O psychologists have a surprisingly strong presence on Twitter, and from personal experience we have found the community to be incredibly supportive and helpful with requests for information or for sharing interesting findings.

Outside of the top five options for staying informed were professional listservs, newsletters, BrowZine, and multiple mentions of the I-O psychology subreddit (reddit.com/r/IOPsychology/).

Communication

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In all things, communication is key. Students must be sure to have a means of staying in touch with others in order to make new connections, find potential collaborators or new opportunities, or to simply meet and discuss ongoing projects. If anything like our students that completed the survey, the average person should use about three tools to keep the conversation going. Aside from the most common tools that most all of us use like email or texting, the most commonly used tools were Facebook, conference-call programs, LinkedIn, convention apps, and Twitter. Because there is some overlap between tools with the last section, we will focus on the new additions.

The most commonly used tool by students was Facebook. Note that this does not mean that students used Facebook the most for academic conversations, and in fact, most indicated that they do not use it for professional purposes. That being said, it is an easy platform to use to speak with colleagues through the built-in messenger or by commenting on their posts, and to keep up with what others are doing.

Number 2 in use was video conferencing programs like Skype, Google Hangouts, appear.in, or gotomeeting. These programs provide a quick, easy, and usually free way to do audio or video conferencing with multiple callers simultaneously. With the additional option of sharing your screen, you can host a presentation or have a discussion with a project team without anyone needing to be in the same room. Different programs have different features and different max simultaneous callers, so readers can look into different options to find what best fits their needs.

LinkedIn was the third most commonly used tool. As discussed in the previous section, LinkedIn is used by many students like a more professionally geared version of Facebook. With a similar structure, it provides an easy way to message others and keep track of their most recent works. Additionally, if you have the LinkedIn app and are next to someone else with your phone’s location services active, you can search for nearby users and instantly send them a request to add them to your contacts.

The fourth most commonly used tool for communication was event and conference apps. If you attended SIOP in April, you either used or at least heard about Whova, the phone app for the conference. These apps provide you with the full conference agenda and allow you to create your own personal agenda. It will even send you reminders before events if you would like. Aside from that, the app will tell you who is presenting in each session. Clicking on the person’s name gives you a bio (if they filled one out) and a way to directly message or email that person, making communication quick and easy. The app also includes a message board for people to create discussions about anything they would like. This past SIOP even had a Dungeons & Dragons recruitment discussion up on Whova.

Finally, Twitter came in at Number 5. This is another tool that was discussed previously. Though it is ranked as the least helpful, perhaps due to the character limit and the difficulty some people have with getting started with tweeting, it is still a useful platform for reaching out to others in the field. If you do not use it, you may be surprised at how many leading scholars in the field are on Twitter and may be even more surprised when they follow or retweet you.

Technology: Boon or Bane?

This column has focused on different tools that I-O grad students can use, as recommended by other I-O grad students, to stay organized, informed, and in communication with others. We focused on the many benefits that these tools provide toward achieving those three outcomes. But is all of this technology a good thing?

Overall, students highlighted many benefits to having all of these tools at our disposal, with several students attributing their success in graduate school to the technology they use. Some of the tools that exist today make staying organized clean and simple, whereas others provide easy access to more information than ever before. Collaboration is easier than ever, and keeping in close (and quick) contact is a cinch. Many students contrasted their graduate-school experience—with the above tools available— with the experiences of previous generations of students who did not have these options, noting that everything today is quicker and more convenient, and with far less printed paper involved. One student went as far as stating that “I honestly don’t know how people got advanced degrees before technology.”

However, not all feedback from students was praise. Students had several complaints about going through graduate school with all of these tools at their disposal. Regarding social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, many students discussed the challenges of trying to promote one’s brand or professional image on these platforms. Also, these platforms were often pointed out as being highly distracting. Students discussed difficulties with psychologically detaching when more information was always trickling in, with one student labeling this “Tech FOMO” (fear of missing out) if not constantly checking social media, RSS feeds, emails, and all other sources of information. There were also issues due to the amount of tools available, because not all tools sync across one another. This can lead to data getting lost in the transitions from one tool to the next, or can leave you stuck repeating work. The biggest complaint overall, though, was the negative impact on work-life balance. Although all of these tools can provide more information than ever before, faster than ever before, and allow you to communicate with others instantly, many students found that constant connectedness also led to higher expectations, making it difficult to ever feel like they were off duty or that their work was done. With these negatives in mind, we suggest moderation where possible. Many of these services aggregate data for you, so there is no need to be constantly refreshing and hoping for more. Unplug every once in a while; the information will all be waiting for you when you get back. It is also essential to turn off all of the notifications during periods when you need to concentrate and work efficiently. Last, even though all of these tools can be helpful, we would be remiss to recommend that they ever completely replace good old-fashioned face-to-face communication from time to time.

We would like to express our thanks to all of the students who completed our survey and provided data for this column. We could not have written this without your valuable feedback! Additionally, we would like to thank everyone for reading our TIP-TOPics columns for the past two years. We have been honored to write for the column and are excited to see the work of the next authors.

Stefanie Gisler is a PhD student at Baruch College and The Graduate Center, CUNY. She received her BA from Bucknell University and an MS in I-O Psychology from the University of Central Florida (UCF). Her research interests include occupational health psychology, diversity, and selection. After earning her PhD, Stefanie would like to pursue a career in academia.

Bradley Gray is a PhD student at Baruch College and The Graduate Center, CUNY. He obtained a BA in Psychology from Wake Forest University in 2010 and an MA in Clinical Psychology from Towson University in 2012. He researches occupational health psychology, with an interest in the relationship between supervisors and their employees, and is also interested in culture change and executive development.

Jenna-Lyn Roman completed her MS degree at Baruch College, CUNY in May 2018 and began her PhD studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology in August 2018. She is interested in work–family research with an emphasis on nontraditional workers and understudied populations (e.g., military families), as well as occupational health psychology and gender parity topics. Jenna would like to be a university professor specializing in work–family topics.

Ethan Rothstein is a PhD student at Baruch College and The Graduate Center, CUNY. Ethan obtained his BA in Clinical Psychology from Tufts University in 2013. His primary area of research has been the interface between work and family, but he has also conducted research on motivation, leadership, team processes, and occupational health psychology. After he graduates, Ethan would like to pursue an applied career in both consulting and industry.

The TIP-TOPics team can be reached by email at bgray1@gradcenter.cuny.edu

 

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