Cloud based file storage and sharing: Dropbox & Sugarsync

Posted: May 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: research tools | 2 Comments »

Why might a researcher/scholar want to have a cloud-based file storage and sharing system in place?

  1. You are in the field collecting data and want to save it beyond (just) your local machine.  For example, I typically bring a laptop and a thumb drive with me into the field, but those can potentially get damaged, lost, or stolen.  A cloud based file storage system ensures that my data is safely stored and will never be lost.
  2. While in the field you need access to your data or other materials.  When I’m on the move and have need of my informed consent documents, schedules, interview questions, etc. I can access them from any computer with a working Internet connection.
  3. You are processing data or writing/editing documents collaboratively.  You want files to be stored in a central location where all team members can access and work on them.  For example, I might be working on a joint paper with colleagues where everyone contribute edits, additions, comments, etc.  Rather than having to sync papers each time one of us makes a change, we simply work on one master document stored in the cloud.
  4. You want to share files that are too large to email.  For example, you might have audio or video files that you want transcribed.  Most of these files are impossible to email because they’re just too large.  Put them in the cloud and then have your colleagues download them to their machines.

For these purposes I use Dropbox.  Dropbox is compatible with Mac (natch) and also Windows, Linux, the iPad, iPhones, Android and BlackBerry.  You can get a *free* account with 2GB of space; if you want more than that then you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription (US$10 for 50GB, US$20 for 100GB).  It’s easy to install and use and I highly recommend it.

Sugarsync is a tool with very similar functionalities and some additional features.  You can have a free 30 day trial, but then you have to pay for it, starting at US$5/month for 30GB and going up to US$25/month for 250GB.  See this page for more info on their pricing.  I haven’t used it myself, but it seems to have gotten positive reviews.

Are there other tools that you use and/or recommend?

Free software alternatives for researchers (and students)

Posted: May 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: articles & books, research tools | Comments Off on Free software alternatives for researchers (and students)

I recently found an excellent article written by Nicholas Buchanan, a grad student at MIT, on free software alternatives for students and (other) researchers.  You can read his article here.  In it he lists and describes various tools for a range of tasks, including data analysis.  He also mentions TAMS and Zotero.

Nicholas writes:

“From operating systems to qualitative mark up and analysis, there are almost always free alternatives that are equivalent in function and quality to their proprietary counterparts. In fact, some free software is now the industry standard…”

If you are looking for such open source tools, or trying to decide between them, I recommend reading through this article.  Thanks, Nicholas!

TAMS Analyzer How To guide — new!

Posted: May 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: research tools, TAMS | 2 Comments »

I have just finished an updated version of my (free) TAMS Analyzer How To guide which you can download here.  Alternatively, you can download it from my page at

My documentation includes information on the following:

  • Starting a new project in TAMS
  • Basic coding in TAMS
  • Using audio, pdf, and image files
  • Creating an Init file
  • Creating and using context codes
  • Running searches on coded data
  • Generating reports
  • Additional sources of information on TAMS

Matthew Weinstein, the author of TAMS, continues to improve the program, so be sure to check the TAMS website regularly for updates.  He has also created extensive documentation on TAMS and its features and functionalities, which can be downloaded separately or bundled with the software itself.