What do you need in order to succeed in grad school?
✓ Hard Work?
Absolutely! And if you are dyslexic, you are going to need a lot more than that. This is my personal Dyslexic Grad Student Toolbox.
Every grad student needs a laptop. I recommend the Macbook Pro.
Why? Macs have superior text-to-speech and dictation tools built-in. I have not yet needed to invest on dictation software since the built-in version does just fine for what I need. The text-to-speech function has plenty of voices to choose from. My favorite: Serena, a British English voice.
I know that there are plenty of tools out there. And maybe in the future I will compile a list. For now, I will talk about my favorite: OCR Kit.
Why? In grad school there are A LOT of readings. Unless you have a super old-school teacher (which I did), most of your readings will be journal articles in the form of PDFs. Some times, they have been OCR’d, but most of the time (for the older ones, anyway) they are not. OCRKit was very inexpensive and Mac-compatible.
How to use it? Drag and Drop. It even creates a new file with the letters “OCR” added to it at the end. Super simple!
Symbol Cheat Sheet
You will have to make this one yourself. The image below is the one I use now.
What is it? It is a page where I keep my “dictionary of symbols.”
Why? Since writing words requires concentration, I often use a series of symbols to keep track of my thoughts as I read academic articles.
How to use it? Reserve a page in the back of your most-used notebook and create symbols for the thoughts/ideas that you want to keep track of when you read.
I catalog the good and questionable points of each paper. I make a note if they relate to my dissertation or topics of interest. And I also make sure to make some notes of points that I will talk about in seminar discussions.
Making notes or annotations on your files is very important. Not just to highlight text, but to help you catalog the kinds of knowledge you want to remember.
I usually markup the edges of the journal articles with symbols as I listen to Serena read out loud.
The Wacom Bamboo tablet turns your computer into a notebook. It is affordable and very effective.
Why? As I read PDF files, I like to markup the edges using the symbols from the cheat sheet discussed above. But it is very cumbersome to do it with the trackpad. Enter Wacom Bamboo.
How to use it? The pen and tablet work just like a notebook. This means that a corner of the tablet is equivalent to a corner of your screen. If you tap that corner it will always be the same corner. This is very different that trackpads, which use the relative position of your cursor as a starting point. It is also very handy when making diagrams and other images.
There are a few varieties out in the world. My favorite is Dyslexie. When I bought it, it cost $70. Now you can get it for free as long as it is for home use.
Why? Because it honestly helps. Try out reading the webpages and applications that use this font. If it helps, I suggest you download it.
How to use it? The font should come with instructions on how to install it on your computer. I recommend using it in every Word draft you have to do. Make sure that when you submit your work you use the conventional font, though!
I hope this was useful! Do you have any other tools you use?