23 Research Things (2017)

Digital tools to support your research

Thing 20: Visualisation tools

U.S. Forest fire hotspots, 2002-12. Map by Ben Jones using Tableau Public
U.S. Forest Fire hotspots, 2002-12.
Data Map by Ben Jones using Tableau Public

Researchers produce data in a variety of forms and usually in large quantities. Visualisation tools can help you to synthesize this data and provide engaging ways for presenting it to a broader audience.  This week we take a look at a range of some popular visualisation tools that work for various different types of data. Thing 20 was written by Andy Tseng (Data Infrastructure Architect Research Services, ITS), Bernard Meade (Innovation and Outreach Research Services, ITS), Michael Jones (Senior Research Archivist, eScholarship Research Centre), Leo Konstantelos (Research Data Curator, Digital Scholarship), David Jones (Client Services & Liaison Librarian, Map Collection).

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Thing 19: Mapping tools


Antonio Tempesta's Map of Rome, 1645
Antonio Tempesta, Map of the city of Rome (pub. 1645).
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

We’re down to the final five with Thing 19 of 23 Research Things and this week we look at a great range of different mapping tools that can be used to visualise your research data. Thing 19 was written by Andrea Hurt (Client Services & Liaison Librarian, Arts), Ben Kreunen (University Digitisation Centre), Jane Beattie (University of Melbourne Archives) and Steve Bennett (Information Technology Services).


Getting started

Mapping and geographic information systems (GIS) provide a way to visualise and contextualise complex data. There is a wide range of software available that researchers can use to display and share their research data via blogs, Google Earth & Maps and social media. Whether you’re uploading information from spreadsheets to show geographical distribution or overlaying historical photos on streetview maps, visualising information can help make complex data more easily understood. Many of the sites we’ll discuss here are also useful as research tools themselves, and some enable you to contribute information yourself and add to an ever-expanding knowledge-base.

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Thing 18: Text mining tools

Cirrus word-cloud of this post using Voyant Tools
Cirrus word-cloud of this post using Voyant Tools

This week, we look at text mining and three great tools to get you started. Thing 18 was written by Andy Tseng (Data Infrastructure Architect Research Services).


Getting started

Text Mining, also often referred to as Text Data Mining or Text Analytics, is a process of filtering out specific or high-quality information from (usually) a large collection of texts via the use of various statistical and/or machine-learning algorithms.

Text mining tools enable us to extract core facts and trends from a large body of data and process those facts to derive patterns and structures that will help us make inferences and predictions about the output.

This is a big topic and there are a large number of tools available, but to get started with text mining we’ll look at some examples that are easy to learn and that should help you to get started with basic text analysis.

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Thing 17: Managing video and audio material

Photograph of camera crew filming a lion
Unknown photographer:
Filming MGM’s ‘Leo the Lion’, 1928.

A few weeks ago, we looked at tools for creating videos and podcasts. This week, we return to the subject but look not so much at tools but at some general guidelines and information that’s available if you’re producing audio and video material as part of your role as a researcher at the University of Melbourne. There are a lot of resources out there, and Ben Loveridge—Communications and Media Production Specialist with the university’s Learning Environments team—has put together this handy compilation of tips, links and advice.

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Thing 16: Reference management tools

Photograph of archival papers
Garzoni family archive (seventeenth-century),
Archivio di Stato, Lucca.
Photograph © Katrina Grant, 2007.

Building a reference list is not the cumbersome chore it once was. Reference management systems enable you to save, store and manage your bibliographies while you’re searching for information across databases and web based resources. A reference management tool can also insert in-text citations as you write up your research, thus automatically building your reference lists. Use these time saving tools as personal libraries and even as sites of collaboration with other researchers. In this week’s post we look at four particular tools:

EndNote, Zotero, RefWorks and Mendeley.

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Thing 15: Tools for Social Media Curation and Content Aggregation

Image of burst fire hydrant with quote from Mitchell Kapor: 'Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant"
Source: https://flic.kr/p/61VWme
(Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0).

It has never been so easy to generate web content, and our appetite for it is enormous. A major contributor to this content explosion is social media. Social media has grown extensively in the last few years, and its use has become ubiquitous. Many platforms exist that serve different communities and purposes, with new ones emerging every year. As we have seen in previous posts, social media can be useful for researchers for a variety of reasons. These include keeping up-to-date with new research, networking with others in your field, as well as disseminating and discussing research topics. But with so much content out there, how can you find the good stuff without spending too much of your valuable time? Sifting through content is time-consuming and distracting. An enormous amount of information is presented to us every day, not just via social media, but also through such channels as Rich Site Summary (RSS) and Atom web-feeds. In order to make the most of this ever-increasing amount of content, many are turning to content aggregation and social media curation tools, the topic of this week’s post.

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Thing 14: Survey tools

Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus with detail of census scene
Taking the Census: detail from the
Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus (late 2nd century B.C.).
Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Photograph © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons.

Surveys have always been a major research tool but the increasing number of online survey programs makes designing, circulating, and processing surveys so much easier. Perhaps the downside is that we now tend to be inundated with emails asking us for just a few moments to provide information or feedback in the form of a brief survey. For research purposes, though, several digital tools are available that can create very sophisticated surveys that have the potential to provide rich data. To point you in the right direction, Thing 14 presents a survey of some of the most accessible of these tools. This week’s post has been written by Andy Tseng (Data Infrastructure Architect Research Services), Satu Alakangas (Liaison Librarian & Research Support, Business & Economics), Hero MacDonald (Arts Librarian) and Craig Patterson (Senior Client Services Librarian). And don’t worry, I won’t be asking you to participate in a survey at the end…

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Thing 13: Screen capture tools & making and sharing podcasts and videos

A photograph of Learning Environments self-service video recording studio, Baillieu Library
Learning Environments self-service video recording studio,
Baillieu Library

This week, we continue to look at different ways in which you can present your research to the world at large. Thing 13 was written by Andrea Hurt (Client Services & Liaison Librarian, Arts), Silvia Paparozzi (University Digitisation Centre) and Ben Loveridge (Communications & Media Production Specialist, Learning Environments).

In this week’s post we’re exploring audio and video production.  There are an increasing number of tools available, both desktop and app based, enabling you to record, edit, capture and share your research. Whether you’re looking at promoting your findings, sharing information between colleagues or looking at the simplest way of capturing data, there will be something to meet your needs. As with all tools, remember to consider the copyright implications of sharing your data, particularly if you are recording other people.  And always read the fine print when publishing online.

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Thing 12: Tools for presenting your research

Albert Einstein delivering lecture
Albert Einstein delivering the
Josiah Willard Gibbs Lecture
of the American Mathematical Society
at the Carnegie Institute of Technology,
Pittsburgh, PA, 28 Dec 1934.

We’ve all been there: that presentation that was death by PowerPoint… Presenting your research well is of course about more than the tools you use, but thinking critically about those tools can also help you to reflect on the structure and pitch of your presentation itself. Thing 12 looks at a number of presentation tools that provide a more dynamic alternative to PowerPoint. This week’s post was written by Kylie Tran (Client Services & Liaison Librarian, Giblin Eunson Library), Mary Stone (Client Services & Liaison Librarian, Baillieu Library) and Wilfred Villareal (Copyright Information Officer, University Copyright Office).


Since its inception and dominance of the presentation market in the mid-1980s, PowerPoint has provided an effective but linear approach to creating and sharing research content. Continue reading “Thing 12: Tools for presenting your research”

Thing 11: Managing and manipulating digital images

A computer generated image of a 3D model created from 70 photographs.
Computer-generated 3D image of
1st century BC statuette of Arsinoe IV.

Following directly on from Thing 10 on finding online images, this week’s post looks in detail at managing and manipulating digital images. Thing 11 has been written by Ben Kreunen from the University Digitisation Centre (UDC). The image to the left was created by the UDC using 70 photographs of the original statuette. For more information on the process, see the video here.


Images as raw data

As well as acting as visual records, images can also be used to create a range of additional forms of data. Advances in computer and camera technology have made many image processing methods more practical and also more economical. Here is an introduction to a variety of image processing techniques that can be used in many different research areas. Continue reading “Thing 11: Managing and manipulating digital images”

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Archive: 2014 Things