ReadCube – The pdf organiser, reader, note-taker, paper tracker…

ReadCube is many things; it’s like an iTunes for your PDFs but SOOOOOO much better cuz it works really well (sorry Apple, not.), its a pdf reader, it make searchable notes, annotates pdfs, finds new articles, yes, ReadCube actually does that for you! Oh, just read the blog.

I am writing this piece for a great friend, ‘Becca, who’s just started her PhD and she knows I advocate using lots of online tools for academics but I never got around to showing her ReadCube cuz there just wasn’t enough time! So here you are, Becca, this is for you.

Screen Shot 2016-10-07 at 13.51.40.png

ReadCube organises you and your reading life

PDF – The ‘Portable Document Format’ that we all know and love(?) and can never get enough of. I still have a gargantuan folder full of PDFs with a cut-off date of 2015, when I was last active in research, it is backed up to the ‘cloud’ but finding and reading and organising my reading for writing papers was a nightmare until ReadCube! (No, I’m not being paid by these guys or have anything to do with the company I just love the product, I’m the same about Evernote – blog coming soon!)

What ReadCube does so well is, after you’ve effortlessly imported all your PDFs from your computer onto the FREE app you’ve just installed, you can start researching or writing for your paper straight away:

  • Create lists of articles

Yes, more list-making (I love lists, it’s the taxonomist in me).

Whether preparing reading lists or a group of relevant papers for an article or report, the list feature is a great way to organise yourself and your relevant papers:


List of lists you’ve created using your library and search results

  • Search within your own library or PubMed/ GoogleScholar

    Even if you don’t have all the papers in your library, don’t worry, use ReadCube to search for articles via PubMed/ GoogleScholar and download new articles (via your institute proxy servers!) is a great way to keep focussed while on your paper-trail since you don’t have to dip in and out of the program.

    • ***the best bit*** ReadCube will even recommend articles for you to read based on your entire library OR from a specific list – over a specific time period (published, last week/month/year)


Search for the latest articles based on your entire library or specific lists you’ve made

  • Reading PDFs is made easier too and all your notes are kept with the PDF

    Highlight your favourite passages in your PDF and make notes as you read, you won’t need to remember what your fervent scribbles mean any more.
    View Supplemental Material! Yes, it’s much easier to view additional material (not for every article as it depends on the source and download – e.g. if it’s yours and you didn’t include it then it won’t), so it’s not perfect but lots better since I last used ReadCube.

  • Citation tool – export your reading list to your reference manager!

    Yes, it’s so easy to export your whole reading list (highlight all articles and right click) to your citation manager, you might even want to send it to a colleague so they can see what you’re reading – keep it for your course students!

    screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-14-03-19Name of the reading list and highlighted contents (left), right click and options shown

More stuff:

Enhance PDF! This means that more information belonging to the PDF, usually from the publisher, appears on the PDF when you read it, like the institution to which the authors belong and supplemental material!:


Metrics. This will tell you how often the article has been cited and tweeted, but only if you get the ‘Pro’ package.

Bookmarklet for your web browser too. I could go on about all the features but I think you ought to just try it out for yourself, it won’t take long.

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 14.31.02.png

ReadCube helped me organise myself a lot during my PhD and PostDoc, and now they have apps available for your Android, and Apple portable devices, even the KindleFire, so you can read on the go.


Good luck to my friend, ‘Becca, I hope this keeps you feeling on top of things, and good luck to anyone else embarking on their PhDs this academic year!


On Twitter or need help reaching out to other academics through your account?

try these blogs: Twitter for Academics

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Top Online Academic blog posts of 2015

It’s now 2016 and I’ve had a look at the stats of the Online Academic blog to see which posts have come out on top in 2015.

I posted 30 times, which generated 26,820 views from 13,0002 visitors, so that’s at least two views per visitor.

The most avid readers were from USA followed by the UK and Australia, Canada, and Germany. Many many thanks to all of you who came to visit.

Top FIVE posts of 2015

  1. Tweeting Etiquette at Conferences
  2. Twitter for Academics Part 4: My Twelve Rules of Tweeting
  3. Twitter for Academics Part 2: Setting up Your Talking Business Card
  4. Twitter for Academics Part 1: Nuts and Bolts
  5. Twitter for Academics Part 3: How to Start Tweeting

What brings 2016?

The Twitter for Academics ebook is what comes in 2016. I started writing the book last summer precisely because of how well received these blogs  were among the academics who visited – *UPDATE* The eBook was published at the end of April click here for more information or click here to go the Amazon website

Have a great new year.🙂

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Why Academics use Twitter

I’ve mentioned before ‘how’ academics use Twitter, but this doesn’t cover ‘why’ they use Twitter.

I’ve heard Twitter be referred to as a global online ‘water cooler’ or ‘rec room’ for academics, a place to hang-out and feel support from others in the same career. There are also some advantages of being connected to those in other institution but of the same field since you hear about institutional and departmental developments first. But sometimes, according to my friend Dr. Dunthorn,

If you are gonna waste time, it’s going to be on something useful, like Twitter!” (@MicahDunthorn September 2015).

I’ve spoken to a number of academics who love using Twitter as an academic, and below are a few answers to why they use it.

  • Useful and quick resource
    • Sometime’s references are hard to find on the internet but it’s so easy to Tweet the article reference and go back later to see if anyone has found it. It doesn’t matter how many people you have in your following, with the right hashtag it’ll be visible to a wider audience.
  • Easy to be social on your terms
    • Many academics can be socially nervous. Twitter has made it easier to connect with those who you might not have had the courage to approach before. All they need to do it like or following the tweets of the person they want to connect with, or send them a tweet or DM.
  • More visible as a researcher
    • Being more visible online can leads to public speaking jobs and invitations to conferences that you may not have been considered for before.
    • Researchers might be looking for someone like you but not realise what you are up to right now cuz you never answer your email, so Twitter is a great way for people to know what you are up to and find out, in a casual way, if you are interested in collaborating.
  • Fun at conferences
    • Meeting people is easier, less awkward that waiting in the background while they finish their conversation.
    • Tweeting keeps you interested in talks because you are actively listening for sound-bytes to Tweet about. I have used tweets as a note-taking tool.
    • Hear about venue changes and parallel sessions. If you’re lucky enough, the conference organisers will tweet from a dedicated account.
    • Keeping in touch after the conference. All those people you met you can put in your own twitter conference list.
  • Easy way to find interesting papers
    • Having a wider research interest in your Twitter account will expose you to research that you may not have considered reading before
  • Celebrating work-related achievements and milestones
    • It’s great when we publish, get funding or a promotion. Tweeting every achievement and pinning it to your newsfeed is a way of advertising your work and have it reached by more people, making it more worthwhile.
    • I tweeted that I completed and passed my Doctorate, and this was great for me because someone on Twitter saw the Tweet and offered me a post-doc. There are a lot of reasons to celebrate, and using Twitter can help move that celebration into another.
  • Global network for any time of the day or night
    • Research shouldn’t be restricted globally or by institution, so having a global online network like Twitter, for your research, for your emotion support, can keep you going at any time of day or night
  • Emotional support
    • Belonging to a great Twitter community of all stages of career can help in finding solutions to problems; finding the best tools and approaches from experienced people at any time of their career, day or night
  • Outreach
    • Many researchers are expected to appear to be reaching out to the public (or whoever) with their research. Twitter can be a vehicle for that use, be it to spread news of open days, workshops, blogs and websites.
  • Writing practice
    • Makes me think about what I want to say; concisely (writing practice)
  • Gain self-confidence
    • Hot debates on things in your own field; learning what they are can really help build confidence.
    • Discussing aspects of your work in concise ways can help to see how things may sound to yourself and others and help improve your communication.
  • Find out about jobs and funding really easily
    • It’s great to have a network of people in your own field with whom you can share first-hand information about the latest jobs and funding applications.

(An excerpt of the Twitter for Academics eBook coming 2016)

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Twitter Apps and Tools for academics – Maintenance

What kind of maintenance tasks are there to do for my Twitter account?

This is a good question since many people I’ve spoken to don’t even think they have to do anything to their account other than tweet when they feel like it. So, what am I talking about? I’m talking about maintenance which, in my experience, includes the following:

  1. Follow-back: Look for more followers and followback those who’ve followed you (not the spammy ones, obviously)
  2. Replying/Mention/Favourite: Interacting with those who interact with you by responding in some way to them, either replying to their Mention, Mentioning them in a Thank You tweet, or favouriting a tweet of theirs in which you’re mentioned. If you don’t have time to reply just favourite and leave it at that, then they’ll be notified of your acknowledgement
  3. DM: Responding to direct messages – only the ones that actually ask something not just say Thank you for following, which you don’t need to do anything for:/
  4. Lists: Add new followers you especially like to your lists – putting everyone you follow into a list can be a bit time consuming so just pick your favourites to put in your list of news or scicomm etc…
  5. Scheduling: Find content from the web (or other tweets) to tweet using a scheduling application. (Don’t want to tweet them all at once and annoy followers so stagger the posts).

Why would you want to maintain your Twitter account?

The answer depends if a) You want an influential account and need more followers or b), You use your account as a tool for networking and connecting with the right people.

In both instances it’s worth understanding that active accounts, those accounts which tweet and interact regularly, are far more responsive to growth and interaction than those which do nothing. But even if you aren’t interested in an account with lots of followers, using your account as a tool to interact and connect with the right people for your career, by maintaining contact lists and responding to queries, these are important daily exercises for a vibrant account that will serve you well over the years.

If you’re a more involved Twitter user and don’t need encouragement to be active all the time, you still might need steering towards doing a little housekeeping; organise lists, find accounts to follow, read or search for your favourite tweeters. In this way you’ll augment your experience of Twitter and become, if you’re not already, a more confident and knowledgeable user.

A deeper understanding of your account comes from doing a few tasks like these:

  1. Follow new accounts – look for accounts similar to yours and follow those who follow them.
  2. Unfollow all those accounts that either don’t follow you back, are spam or are unused ‘dead’ accounts.
  3. Study at your stats/analytics to see when your followers are mostly online; your most popular tweets; from which country your followers are… and much more besides

The second list of maintenance tasks shown above are best performed with the help of other applications, such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Buffer, Klout and many more big and trusted programs to help you understand more about your Twitter accounts influence and even geographical influence. Some of these apps come with a certain amount of use for free; unfollow up to 50 users per day, follow up to 50 users per day, etc… (More on apps in the next section in this chapter).

I enjoy taking the time to use these apps to sort out my Twitter accounts since I get to know the types of accounts that follow me, where they comes from and what tweets are most popular. It’s a bigger task, but then I like to take my time with a coffee and relax to some music whilst doing it.

(This blog is taken from the Twitter for Academics book to come out early 2016)

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Crafting a Personal Brand for Academic Professionals

An absolutely superb prezi (presentation) on Academic Branding with great content and advice. Thank you Dr. Abraham Hmiel🙂


Yesterday I gave a talk on UAlbany’s main campus regarding an overview of personal branding strategies for academic professionals through the UAlbany FFLC (Future Faculty Leadership Council). The talk is focused on the online aspect of personal branding.  Please feel free to share the talk with others if you find it useful. I may periodically update its content with time. There is a substantial amount of supporting information and places to go for further reading, provided in footnotes. Follow the link below to get to the Prezi presentation:

Crafting a Personal Brand For Academic Professionals

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The Twitter Rules you may not realise you’ve been breaking.

Rules — if you don’t know them then how do you know you’re breaking them? Here are some highlights of the Twitter Rules that you may not realise you’ve been breaking!

Twitter Rules and Best Practices

The internet is host to many products and services and Twitter, like all the other internet companies, try to make sure its users adhere to certain rules and regulations. How often do you click ‘yes’ when agreeing to Terms and Conditions on an internet product without having read any of it? While my trust is in the product and name of the company, and this might override my decision to read ToCs, I should consider my own conduct too.

Twitter have an easy to follow page, The Twitter Rules, on their Help Centre website, so it’s worth taking a quick look if you haven’t done so already since it could save you a bit of stress when you are faced with, like I was, a constant message telling me I am blocked from following any more users at this time. I didn’t understand what was going on and it detracted from my enjoyment of using Twitter.

I’ve highlighted a few interesting official Twitter rules here, but still encourage you to take a look at the page since they are subject to updates and revisions.

*Please note: the Twitter Rules are part of their Terms of Service, which you must agree to before opening an account.*

Content — There is some limitation to the type of content one can post, for mostly legal reasons, things like violent outbursts and threats against others are not allowed, not that they would be condoned in most life situations anyway. Graphic or pornographic or violent picture or video content is also not allowed — although there is a hefty amount present on Twitter, you must realise that it’s against the Twitter Rules.

Publishing private information of another person is not allowed without their consent, this includes emails, postal addresses, telephone numbers, identity numbers, as well as intimate photos or videos.

Deception — The impersonation of someone or a company with the intent to mislead others is not allowed, and Twitter can reclaim usernames on behalf of companies or people when they have been taken. In relation to this, taking up usernames to buy or sell is not allowed and comes under Abuse.

Abuse and disruptive behaviour — Owning multiple accounts for the same use is deemed a form of disruptive behaviour since one might, and probably will, use them all to post the same material all the time. Also, sending messages to a single user from multiple accounts is also deemed abusive. Any violation of these rules could result in suspension of all accounts.

Username Squatting — This is a term I was unaware of until I wrote this section; it’s when an account is created just to take a username, but this can also be applied to accounts that are inactive for more than six months. Twitter reserve the right to take action against Username Squatters but do take into consideration a few things first like, how many accounts were created with similar usernames and the purpose of creating any of the accounts, as well as third-party maintenance (using proxy programs to maintain activity).

Invitation Spam — This is when you have your address book pillaged and everyone in it is invited to join X, and often it looks like a personal message from you. It can be a useful tool especially for social networks but it is not allowed on Twitter, so if you’re a software or app developer, please beware.

Copyright — Twitter’s policy is pretty standard and have guidelines for copyright procedures in Section 9 ‘Copyright Policy’ of their Terms of Service user agreement contract. Twitter will exercise the right to remove content they believe to infringe on Copyright and terminate accounts that repeatedly infringe on Copyrighted material.

Twitter Badges — ‘Promoted’ or ‘Verified’ Twitter badges are provided by Twitter only and are not be used without their consent and so the account could be suspended if used in header photos or profile pictures without official consent.

The official Twitter account verified with a little ripple-edged blue badge and with central white tick

Automated actions — There are a huge amount of applications and software programs that offer services to Twitter users to sort out the metaphorical wheat from the chaff, so it’s worth realising that if you’re using a third party application you might be in violation of Twitter’s Automation Rules and Best Practices. Automated bulk unfollowing and following is not permitted and any user or application engaging in this practice will be suspended. Rest assured there are verified apps out there that can help you in Twitter Housekeeping, just make sure they are kosher by finding out if they’re verified by Twitter before using them.

Using block as a means to unfollow — is not allowed.

Spam — Is a hugely important facet of the Terms of Service and the Twitter Rules, which is why I left it ’til last since there are many ways in which behaviour can constitute as spamming other users and can take a little more space to explain.

Spam is, basically, ‘Irrelevant, annoying, unsolicited and sometimes dangerous tweets or behaviour’, and in the Twitter Rules — you may not use Twitter for the purpose of spamming anyone. So let’s find out more what spamming is:

*This is not an exhaustive list, so take a look at Twitter Rules page for more*

>Following and unfollowing accounts: Or ‘Follow Churn’; following an account then re-following. I confess to having done this for a short time because I wanted to see if I could increase my following and raise attention of those who I wanted to follow me back but I had no idea that it was a form of spam behaviour and is definitely not allowed. Luckily I was not reported or banned, however, having done this I have experienced a definite negative effect on my account since I am unable to follow as many people as I used to on my personal account, which is annoying since I can’t follow back as many people.

>Misuse of the Hashtag: Over-use of hashtags and using unrelated hashtags on a tweet can be seen as spam since it could be piggybacking on ‘trending’ or popular topics.

>Misuse of @replies and mentions: Sending out large numbers or tweets filled with @replies and mentions — either duplicated or unsolicited is a no no.

>Unrelated Lists of users: Creating lists of unrelated users is spam since it’s attention grabbing, un-useful and irrelevant.

>Creating false or misleading content: Tweeting lies or misleading information to get attention, it’s just plain annoying.

>Aggressively (and randomly) retweeting, favouriting and following: This is pretty straightforward to understand — favouriting tweets and retweeting lots of stuff is bombarding people with content and notifications and is thus extremely annoying.

>Using or Promoting third-party (proxy) services to gain followers: There is a nice article on Twitter’s help page (click here) about these third party application where you pay to get more followers, but it’s important that you do not engage in this practice since you are giving control of your account to a third party and when they do add followers to your account these new followers are not even in use (bot or abandoned accounts) so it’s a pretty useless venture since they’ll never read your tweets and will probably end up being removed anyway because they’re inactive.

Third party applications may also be likely to violate Twitter’s Terms of Service via phishing scams and fraud, which is not usual, and could then lead to your account being suspended or deleted.

(An excerpt from the upcoming book, Twitter for Academics)

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Topical Academic hashtags

Here I list the hashtags used most commonly within academic communities with a brief general description of the intentional use.

Remember: hashtags, even the curated ones, can be used at any time since there is usually always some talking on that particular subject.

PhDs and Academics


Tweets on anything to do with Academia


Tweets recommending other scholars/academics to follow


Tweets about anything to do with being Adjunct


Academic Writing – discuss


Conversation for and about being an Early Career Researcher


For conversational topics between/for PhD students


Advice for PhD students


Anything to do with PhD life


Tweets about being a PhD student


Tweets about being a PhD and/or PhD student (life, work, funny)


Bi-montly chat hashtag about gaining, wanting, or what to do with a PhD.


Tweets related to the emergency medical services


Science communication conversation


Alternative Careers (to research and postdoc) – jobs posts, careers advice…


Conversations between and for Post Doctoral Researchers


Tweets about writing in academia; tips, news, and conversation


Everything related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics


If you’re an academic and have a cat, you know what to do

Educational Academics


Education Technology


All to do with Higher Education


General Education News


Student Affairs conversation


Professorial Development (not professional)


Multicultural Affairs and Social Justice in Higher Ed Student affairs


Open Source E-learning platform chat


Massive Online Open Courses


Academic Advice


Related topics to undergraduate studies and universities


Educational Studies

An extract from the book Twitter for Academics – coming soon.

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