You’ve just received the brief for your next assignment, but where do you start? If it’s an essay you might already be racing to the learning centre to check out the entire reading list, or for design work perhaps you’re just staring at a blank sheet of paper waiting for the creativity to flow. Or if you’re like millions* of other students around the world who use the World Wide Web to study, you’re searching online for nuggets of information or inspiration. If one of your first ports of call for a piece of work is the internet, you probably find that at the beginning stages of research you are overwhelmed by the resources you find and need to organise. There’s nothing more frustrating when writing an essay than remembering a key fact you read somewhere… and having no idea where it came from.
When surfing the web for study, it’s good practice to bookmark useful sites you may return to when writing and referencing your work, but this practice no longer needs to be limited to an uninteresting list of websites attached to the top of your browser (and limited to a single computer). The following are a few sites offering what’s known as ‘social bookmarking’, allowing you to capture websites in a range of different ways to suit your needs.
*Just an estimate!
This is the most traditional of the tools reviewed in this article, as it effectively works in the same manner as normal browser bookmarks. However, by using the Chrome browser and logging into a Google account, your bookmarks will follow you around to any computer where you are also using Chrome and logged into Google. You just need to make sure your Google account is associated with the Chrome browser (check this by viewing Settings under the top right-hand menu).
Del.icio.us is the ideal site for bookmarking text-based sites which may help you with your work. Sign up to the site and you can log in on any computer, using any browser, to access your bookmarks which can be organised with tags and annotated with a description of the site. The list of bookmarks also includes an image from each site to give you a visual reference. The opportunity to tag sites can be very useful as it allows you to filter the bookmarks based on your criteria; for example, you may wish to use the site for two different assignments and tag sites as such – “Dissertation”, “Biology Module Essay” etc. – as well as using other key words. The site gives you the option of keeping your list private or sharing with others, a feature ideal for group projects.
Del.icio.us also has an app for Android and Apple devices, allowing you to save bookmarks on the go.
Pinterest could be seen as the visual equivalent of Del.icio.us but with the added feature of creating multiple boards. Although the Pinterest site seems to be primarily used by people all over the world for gathering recipes, or inspiration for home decoration and weddings, the format lends itself just as well to creating a bookmark board of visual material for creative projects. For example, a product design student may use the site to ‘Pin’ inspiring packaging solutions or architecture students may wish to collate a board of precedents when commencing a design project. Just about any site with an image can be added to your board through the ‘Pin It’ button which needs to be added to your browser. Again, boards can be kept private or shared and you are encouraged to follow other users with similar interests in order to expose yourself to further inspiration!
Pinterest also has an app for Android and Apple devices, so you can view your inspiration on the go.
Although described as a ‘social bookmarking’ site, the use of Stumble Upon in your education could be seen more as a source of inspiration (or procrastination!) By signing up to the site and selecting your interests you can sit back and have a random assortment of interesting, exciting, motivating, weird and wonderful sites discovered for you. The bookmarking element comes from the option to ‘Like’ sites which you may want to return to later. Stumble Upon may be ideal if you’re just a bit stuck and want to broaden your mind, or just need a five minute break to rest your brain cells.
Stumble Upon also has an app for Android and Apple devices, so you can procrastinate on the go!
Alternatively, check out Pearltrees – this site mixes bookmarking with mindmapping so could help you start to structure the resource you want to use in a piece of work as well as share and collaborate with others. Read our recent article on how to Create Mindmaps on your computer or tablet to help you plan, create and revise.