#TechTuesday: Three Apps I Use Everyday as an Academic Researcher (That You Probably Haven’t Heard of)

Austin Kocher, PhD
5 min readJul 19, 2022

Welcome to another edition of #TechTuesday, an intermittent post about the ways that academic research intersects with technology. Today I want to discuss a few niche consumer-level applications I use all the time because I find them extremely helpful.

This post was originally published here: https://austinkocher.substack.com/.

It’s worth emphasizing at the outset that the most important technology any researcher has is their own brain. You have to be willing to think intentionally about a problem, turn it around in your head for a bit, and fiddle with the ensemble of ideas you’re trying to work out. Technology can’t do that for you.

I find pen and paper to still be equally crucial: I doodle, I write out in long-form, I sketch out ideas and words to get my thoughts together — that sort of thing. And books, paper books — still my favorite of all human technologies — make up a significant part of my own serious reading.

Nonetheless, these classical academic technologies need not be mutually exclusive with current technologies. Over my short career so far, I have spent time in several archives, I’ve conducted a few hundred research interviews, and I regularly work with large and small datasets — all of which mean, in short, that I work with a lot of different types of old and new data on a regular basis. To find, process, manage, store, and retrieve these various data is part of my weekly work.

So let’s start with something simple to illustrate what I mean. (And in case there’s any question: no, none of these apps are sponsors in any way.)

Say you’ve got an old PDF document you took a picture of in an archive or a photograph with a bit of text in it, and you want to copy and paste the text into a note or an article. If it’s a PDF document you can run what’s called “optical character recognition” (OCR) on the document (which I do when I need to). But very often, I don’t need the whole document, I just need a paragraph; or it’s an image and full OCR doesn’t make sense anyways.

To solve this problem, I use a little app called TextSniper, which is the simplest little OCR app. You activate it, click-and-drag a…

--

--

Austin Kocher, PhD

I study America’s immigration enforcement system. Assistant Professor at TRAC. Graduate of OSU Geography. Online at austinkocher.com.