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Trending Topic: Must-Have Technology for Graduate and Doctoral Students

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Starting a graduate or doctoral level degree program is a significant undertaking. The quality and depth of the work required in these programs is substantially greater than the caliber of work characteristic of an undergraduate degree program. The ability to work quickly and efficiently without sacrificing quality is mission critical to these students’ success (Dwivedi, Ravishankar, & Simintiras 617).

Paradoxically, as students academically compete at increasingly higher levels, time becomes additionally scarce (Kumar, Johnson, & Hardemon 5). The objective herein is to shed light on game-changing technology for graduate and doctoral students, regarding time-savings and efficiency benefits.

The next few sections of this sample essay highlight how differences in the level of rigor among higher level degree programs necessitate the use of technology resources mentioned herein.

Rigor of graduate and doctoral programs

As students might expect, instructors in charge of graduate and doctoral programs are not going to allow for the same margin of error that undergraduate students are accustomed to. Not only are overall standards and expectations much more rigorous in graduate and doctoral degree programs, but students must also demonstrate they can generate original ideas and expound upon existing theoretical and conceptual frameworks from scholarly literature (Dwivedi et al. 616).

Similarly, making unsubstantiated claims is also looked down upon in graduate and doctoral degree programs. Even when students are capable of generating their ideas or theories, faculty members in graduate and post graduate courses expect students to defend their positions with references to scholarly literature, rather than rely on opinion or hearsay.

Original research requirements in theses and dissertations

Perhaps most challenging of all, graduate and doctoral students are normally required to conduct original research by designing and executing a study of their creation to fulfill a gap in the existing body of literature (Dwivedi et al. 616). This single endeavor is tremendously time-consuming and, in many cases, students must repeat steps in the dissertation or thesis process because failing to observe seemingly inconsequential details can throw off the entire trajectory of large scale projects.

In any case, students attempting to complete the thesis or dissertation phase of their coursework do not have very much room to miss if they expect to stay on track with their target graduation date (Prasad 938). Therefore, staying organized early on and throughout subsequent phases of a graduate or doctoral program can pay large dividends later on in the form of tuition savings and time management. 

Additional Challenges of Distance Education Graduate and Doctoral Programs

It is not uncommon for graduate and post-graduate students to feel isolated in their quest for a master or doctoral degree. This climate may especially be prominent among students enrolled in distance education programs, not because support capabilities are nonexistent in these institutions, but because they lack comparable socialization opportunities or available alternatives are simply not as readily accessible (Tweedie, Clark, Johnson, & Kay 386).

After graduating with an undergraduate degree, many students pursue work opportunities and settle into a career track right away, if they were not already working while attending courses. In fact, for many graduate and doctoral learners, career aspirations are what provoke interest in additional schooling. For most of these individuals, full-time employment is a constant necessity, so any additional coursework is at the mercy of students' work schedules. 

Graduate and doctoral students who must work full-time while taking classes face particularly difficult odds by having to make time for their schooling after already working 40 hours per week. If dependent children and a spouse are also in the equation, students are bound to face multiple time management barriers in trying to fit in professional, academic, and familial responsibilities in every week (Kibelloh & Bao 257).

Despite the reality of these challenges, as well as those that were mentioned earlier, technology solutions exist to offset the demands of graduate and doctoral degree programs. In fact, efficient graduate and doctoral students may even be able to outpace their undergraduate counterparts with the right technology. In the following sections, must-have technologies for graduate and doctoral learners are described in detail, and instructions are provided on how to locate, acquire, and use each technology solution.

Overcoming Organization Challenges: Cloud Account Software

Any student who recently completed an undergraduate degree probably has some familiarity with cloud account technology. Put simply; cloud account technology encompasses data storage, data management, software, and social networking applications made possible via web-based systems (Aharony 645). Hundreds of other forms of cloud technology exist but, for the purposes herein, think of cloud technology as low maintenance software systems operated by online providers. An easy way to grasp cloud technology is to consider the conventional technologies the cloud technology is replacing.

Cloud storage accounts are similar to external hard drives or “thumb drives”, regarding their storage capabilities, except they do not require users to own physical storage devices. Instead, users’ documents, presentations, music, pictures, and videos are housed in an online storage facility that can be accessed through any personal or mobile computing device with an internet connection.  

Cloud storage technology is an essential resource for graduate and doctoral students because it simplifies file management processes. Most students nowadays utilize a combination of computing devices to accomplish their schoolwork. Some users rely on one type of device more than another. Likewise, some users rely on more than one computer or mobile device.

This predicament is especially typical of students with full-time work responsibilities because these practitioners must juggle files across multiple devices and between their home and work computers (Luna, Luis, & Sequera 1437). Often these individuals use email to route files back and forth between computers. Each time the file is accessed and updated, students must download it, open it, work on it, save it, reattach it to an email, and send it back to themselves to access it later from a different device.

Distance education for graduate and doctoral students 

Graduate and doctoral students enrolled in distance education programs can also relate to a similar challenge because the students are often required to collaborate with their peers on collaborative team assignments (Luna et al. 1436). More often than not, team members divide and conquer large projects by accepting responsibility for a specific portion of the work and subsequently upload their fair share at an agreed-upon deadline.

However, this process is cumbersome and vulnerable to more than a few types of errors. Likewise, students are essentially blind as to whether their counterparts are on track to complete their assignment and have a hard time knowing whether the quality level of their peers’ work is acceptable (Luna et al. 1438). Put simply; this entire methodology is lacking in transparency and efficiency.

By simply subscribing to a free cloud account service through Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive, students can immediately gain access to approximately 5 GB of cloud storage space indefinitely, and at no cost. This single step eliminates the need to rely on physical storage devices. Using a simple cloud storage account also means that students no longer have to send emails back and forth between their email accounts to work on assignments from different devices or locations.

Instead, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive both equip students with the ability to work on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in a web-based cloud environment, where updates are automatically saved approximately every 10 seconds (Aharony 657).

Users can also invite other users to access individual files, multiple files, or entire folders of work. Cloud storage settings can be adjusted so that invitees can view or view and edit files. Therefore, graduate and doctoral students who are required to collaborate with other classmates no longer need to micromanage multiple files, ask for progress reports regarding other members’ work, or worry about whether the correct file version is being used (Aharony 646; Luna et al. 1440). These features only represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the features embedded within cloud account technology, but should sufficiently incentivize graduate and doctoral students to establish a cloud storage account.

Reference management software: Mendeley

Potentially the single most valuable tool mentioned herein is Mendeley referencing software. The pains associated with properly formatting in-text citations and work cited pages are over for graduate and doctoral students equipped with Mendeley (Khwaja & Eddy 19). The software capabilities contained within Mendeley include twenty of the most popular referencing styles, including APA, MLA, AMA, Harvard, Chicago, and Turabian just to name a few.

For users that need to toggle between referencing styles to appease different instructors’ unique citation requirements, switching from one style to another is easy and takes place at the click of a button. Mendeley’s software performs bibliographic functions through a process called scraping, where information from each source is analyzed for specific citation style patterns and is then subsequently coded into an appropriate citation.

Mendeley scrapes bibliographic metadata from academic journals, but it also works on electronic books, white papers, reports, government publications, and websites (Khwaja & Eddy 25). Users simply identify the reference type for each source and Mendeley successively organizes the source data into the chosen bibliographic format. This process is made possible through algorithms that Mendeley appropriates which are intuitive enough to tell the difference between a URL address and a doi number.

On rare occasions when Mendeley is unable to scrape bibliographic data accurately, like that from an annotated bibliography, it prompts users to verify manually if the information scraped is correct or not. In the event Mendeley is unable to extract the correct information from a particular source, users may need to fill in some of the information fields, but Mendeley will still do the heavy lifting required to produce the bibliographic reference entry once it has all the required information parts.

Mendeley also comes equipped with plugins that allow users to read, edit, and highlight source text directly from within Mendeley, instead of having to keep files open in Adobe, Microsoft, and other programs (Zaugg, West, Tateishi, & Randall 34). Users can also create folders for storing groups and sets of articles. Mendeley can also scrape files for their abstracts and keywords, plus users can create their tags as well. Time spent digging through lengthy articles to locate information about particular theories and studies can be accessed quickly later on because users can create tags regarding embedded content.

This feature is a huge benefit because most universities’ research search engines can only identify search parameters using article titles, keywords, and abstracts.

Dragon Naturally Speaking helps graduate and doctoral students 

Most graduate and doctoral students can relate to frustration and stress from deadlines, writers block, and time conflicts. Deadlines, in and of themselves, often interfere with students’ focus because of the imminent threat of lateness. Sometimes students can gain traction in their writing but, too frequently, they stop and go because they cannot resist the urge to edit their work as they write.

One way to overcome these challenges is to use speech-to-text software that converts spoken verbiage into written text (Shadiev, Hwang, Chen, & Huang 72). A popular and efficient provider of this technology is Nuances’ Dragon Naturally Speaking software, which is compatible with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other software makers’ programs as well. However, the most important benefit of Dragon Naturally Speaking software is that it helps students put small blocks of time to use so they can complete significant amounts of written work during downtime.

As previously mentioned, graduate and doctoral-level students face intense time constraints. For graduate and doctoral students that work full-time and commute each day to and from work, gaining the ability to leverage commute time into writing time through speech-to-text software is a truly valuable accomplishment. Whether students use Nuances' Dragon Naturally Speaking software or an alternative, armed with a compatible Bluetooth headset, students can accomplish a significant amount of work safely from their vehicle between work and home.

Research also shows the some people can produce content substantially faster using speech-to-text software than by typing on an ordinary keyboard (Bromley 102). One potential reason some people can produce written text faster using voice recognition software is because creative processes are often separated from critical thinking processes when speaking aloud (102).

Naturally, content created using voice-to-text software requires more editing than if the same content was typed using a keyboard. This outcome can occur because sometimes the software misinterprets certain words more often than other when spoken aloud, but the amount of time required to edit and fix these imperfections is significantly less time consuming than typing it more efficiently the first time. 

Final Thoughts

A multitude of technologies exists for graduate and doctoral students to experiment with which may repel some students from even trying to explore time-saving technology. However, the technologies herein are worth investigating because they are free or relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and will result in almost immediate time savings. Each software provider also furnishes helpful videos and tutorials for users who want streamlined training and assistance. 

Image Courtesy of: https://www.nuance.com/dragon.html Visit them to check out Dragon for yourself!

Works Cited

Aharony, Noa. “Cloud Computing: Information Professionals’ and Educational Technology Experts' Perspectives.” Library Hi Tech 32.4 (2014): 645. Web.

Bromley, Karen. “Picture a World Without Pens, Pencils, and Paper: The Unanticipated Future of Reading and Writing.” Journal of College Reading and Learning 41.1 (2010): 97–108. Web.

Dwivedi, Yogesh K, M. N. Ravishankar, and Antonis Constantinou Simintiras. “Completing a PhD in Business and Management.” Journal of Enterprise Information Management 28.5 (2015): 615–621. Web.

Khwaja, Tehmina, and Pamela L Eddy. “Research Papers Using Mendeley to Support Collaborative Learning in the Classroom.” Information Manager’s Journal of Educational Technology 12.2 (2015): 19–29. Print.

Kibelloh, Mboni, and Yukun Bao. “Can Online MBA Programs Allow Professional Working Mothers to Balance Work, Family, and Career Progression? A Case Study in China.” Asia-Pacific Education Researcher 23.2 (2014): 249–259. Web.

Kumar, Swapna, Melissa Johnson, and Truly Hardemon. “Dissertations at a Distance: Students’ Perceptions of Online Mentoring in a Doctoral Program.” The Journal of Distance Education 27.1 (2013): 1–12. Print.

Luna, Washington, José Luis, and Castillo Sequera. “Collaboration in the Cloud for Online Learning Environments: An Experience Applied to Laboratories.” Creative Education 6.August (2015): 1435–1445. Web.

Prasad, Ajnesh. “Playing the Game and Trying Not to Lose Myself: A Doctoral Student’s Perspective on the Institutional Pressures for Research Output.” Organization 20.6 (2013): 936–948. Web.

Shadiev, Rustam et al. “Review of Speech-to-Text Recognition Technology for Enhancing Learning.” Educational Technology and Society 17.4 (2014): 65–84. Print.

Tweedie, M. Gregory et al. “The ‘dissertation Marathon’ in Doctoral Distance Education.” Distance Education 34.3 (2013): 379–390. Web.

Zaugg, Holt et al. “Mendeley: Creating Communities of Scholarly Inquiry Through Research Collaboration.” TechoTrends 55.1 (2011): 32–36. Web.



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