When it comes to postgraduate research, every resource that helps with systematic screening of the literature, identifying connections, gaps, and the potential for future work is worth its weight in gold. We recently caught up with an inspiring student, Omar Ng, who has undertaken a Master’s in Instructional Design and Technology after 20 years away from academia. In addition to navigating the complexities of his Master’s program, Omar also has a demanding full-time job. Time is short, and the challenge of synthesizing vast amounts of information into meaningful insights looms large.
EWJ: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your course.
ON: I’m about to finish my Masters’s in construction design. I returned to education after 20 years and things have changed a lot since I was at graduate level.
EWJ: What are your biggest challenges when it comes to studying?
ON: In addition to my Masters, I have a full-time job, so trying to synthesise all the material I need for my course is difficult. Available time is my biggest challenge!
EWJ: How do you overcome these challenges today (software, study methods/practices, other)?
“In the past I’ve used the abstract to get an overview of the paper, but they aren’t always very useful.”
EWJ: What were your first impressions of Scholarcy?
ON: I signed up for a free trial and compared Scholarcy with another tool that summarized articles, and what I found was that Scholarcy’s AI generated a better overview of the paper, but also that it did a lot more than just summarize. With the other tool I needed to copy and paste text to generate a summary, whereas with Scholarcy I could simply import the article PDF or paste a link to the online version to get a Flashcard that included an overview of every section of the article, a useful comparison with earlier studies and links to all the cited sources.
EWJ: What motivated you to sign up to Scholarcy?
ON: I had been given four research questions by my professor, each of which required me to read ~30 articles and I had 2-3 weeks for each question. By the end of the first research question, I felt that I needed some help. My professor provided me with a literature review matrix to help me identify key information from my pile of papers, but that didn’t reduce my workload, so I tried Scholarcy.
After uploading three articles to Scholarcy, I was convinced that this was the tool I needed to help me. Another motivation was its ability to help me organise and keep track of my research. I also found the Comparative Analysis feature really useful as it helped me to quickly understand how the papers I was reading compared to earlier research in my field of study.
EWJ: How easy did you find Scholarcy to use?
ON: I found that I easily understood how to upload articles into Scholarcy and then organise them into libraries and folders. It’s one of the more intuitive research tools I’ve used.
“It’s one of the more intuitive research tools I’ve used.”
EWJ: Take me through how you typically use Scholarcy as a research assistant.
ON: I go to an online library or research platform, download all the articles I need and then save them in a folder on my computer. Then I create a library in Scholarcy and import all my articles there in one go. Being able to upload a collection of articles to Scholarcy rather than importing one by one saves me time – I find the file import function really fast.
“Uploading articles into Scholarcy makes screening them much quicker and I can see the similarities and differences between articles more easily.”
EWJ: Which sections of the Scholarcy Flashcard do you use most and why?
ON: I find the Key Concepts section useful to get a quick, high-level overview of the main themes of a paper. I also like to check the abstract – the highlights Scholarcy automatically makes in the abstract are useful for directing my attention to the most important sentences.
The Synopsis is handy because it gives me a quick, easy-to-read summary of the paper and I also check the Scholarcy Highlights because these give me more insight into the paper than I would get from reading the abstract alone.
“I find the Comparative Analysis feature useful, not only because it gives me a good sense of where the paper sits in the wider body of research but also because it shows me which papers the authors are citing.”
I also use the full-text feature and I love the Spotlight feature that takes me straight to important points within the full text. I actually find the full text easier to read in Scholarcy than in the original papers, especially if it’s a multi-column article.
“It would normally take me 15mins-1 hour to skim-read the article but with Scholarcy I can do it in 5 minutes.”
If you have a study-related story to tell, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us at: [email protected]