Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Digging in the DiRT

Today, my pal Meg sent me a link to a PBWiki focused solely on digital research tools or (DRT). Meg is an academic librarian and frequent Cloudnotes reader, so when she sent me this link I knew I had to check it out. DiRT’s self-described mission is pretty straightforward:

This wiki collects information about tools and resources that can help scholars (particularly in the humanities and social sciences) conduct research more efficiently or creatively.  Whether you need software to help you manage citations, author a multimedia work, or analyze texts, Digital Research Tools will help you find what you're looking for. We provide a directory of tools organized by research activity, as well as reviews of select tools in which we not only describe the tool's features, but also explore how it might be employed most effectively by researchers.

The DiRT home page is helpfully organized around various research activities, including Brainstorm/ generate ideas, Make a screencast, Share bookmarks, Take notes/ annotate resources, and Visualize data. For each task, DiRT provides links to tools, software, and websites that fit the bill. For some of the more well-known research tools, such as Zotero and Diigo,  DiRT features a longer review discussing the tool’s advantages and disadvantages.

I’m pretty excited to see a wiki dedicated to online research. And I’m happy to report that, unlike many specialty wikis, DiRT isn’t an abandoned ghost town. While not yet a comprehensive source, it seems to be an active community, with a critical mass of useful content. As a native Texan (I live in Houston), I also have to note DiRT’s editors are predominantly Texas-based, including academic librarians at Rice University and Sam Houston State University.

If you’re at all into the stuff I write about here, a site like this deserves your attention and support. So I encourage you to head over there, take a look around, and maybe become a contributor.