Hot on the heels of today’s iPhone 4S event, I wanted to share some strategies for using your iPhone (or other smartphone) as a great research tool.
The awesome thing about today’s smartphones is their amazing processing power (they’re little computers), coupled with fit-in-your-pocket portability. Smartphones are like electronic Swiss army knives and you can increase their usability through the plethora of applications “apps” available out there.
1. Taking notes. Thanks to all of the practice we have gotten with text messaging, some people can type just as fast if not faster with their thumbs, on a phone, instead of a standard keyboard. Prolonged note-taking would get tiring on a phone (you wouldn’t want to write an essay) but you can take notes with ease and email them to yourself later and add to or edit them on another device. If you plan on taking extensive notes, you can use a Bluetooth keyboard to type information into your phone.
2. Taking pictures. Pictures are great visual reminders. If you are doing research and prefer to take notes by hand or for convenience, you can take a picture of your notes for later reference on your phone or to send through email. In a place like the Hoover Archives, you are allowed to make digital photos of materials and camera phones are allowed. With the enhanced quality of modern smartphone cameras, you might not need a dedicated camera, and it is perfect for making pictures of research material. You can also make a snapshot of a page of any book for later reference.
3. Easy access to documents. There are many services that allow you to access your files remotely. Two of them that I use are Evernote and Dropbox. Both allow you to access and edit files that are stored remotely, in the “cloud”. The advantage here is that you can access a document (a dissertation outline for example) and edit it whenever you are inspired to do so, without having to physically be at your computer or to have your notebook with you.
People will argue endlessly about iOS 5 vs. Android or other smartphones, but the thing to remember is that the technology in all of these phones is far superior to anything we’ve ever been able to hold in our hands and carry in our pockets. Whatever phone you choose, make the most of it, not just as something fun to play with, but as a tool that will help you focus your schedule, organize information and achieve your goals.
In case you missed it, during the iPhone 4S event, they demonstrated the voice-powered Siri personal assistant. One of the questions that they asked was for directions. The asked for directions to none other than the Hoover Tower (part of the Hoover Institution Library and Archives) where I work. We’re always happy for a little publicity. 🙂
If you are interested, it’s at the 77 minute mark of the keynote address.