"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." - VoltairE

Top apps, tools and websites for students

September 7, 2018

As I’ve gone back to studying, I’ve found some useful tools to help. As this new academic year kicks off, I thought it would be useful to share my favourites:

  1. Reference manager - Zotero (free). Zotero is a brilliant way of organising all your sources including books, papers, presentations, journal articles, videos, podcasts and more. It’s really easy to generate bibliographies from your source material and use tagging to organise and sort your material efficiently. It really is an excellent, powerful tool. (Alternatives are Mendeley and Quiqqa)

  2. PDF annotation - neu.Annotate PDF (£3.99). I use neu.Annotate on my iPad so that I can read and annotate material for my Master's on the go. Documents can be marked up in lots of ways including highlights, underlines, text annotations, stamps, photos and loads more. Documents can be exported with annotations and the app can sync to cloud storage like Dropbox.

    Skim (free). This is a free, Mac-only PDF reader and annotating program. It is particularly good for bookmarking quotes and typing notes as you read which can be exported separately from the PDF.

  3. Lecture note capture - Soundnote (£4.99). This is a simple but brilliant app that enables you to record a lecture at the same time as typing / writing notes and even drawing diagrams. The clever part is that the note-taking syncs with the audio so you can always track your place.

  4. Thought and project organiser - Cloud Outliner (99p). There are lots of ways you could use this powerful tool to organise notes, tasks, lists and projects. I find it helpful to structure writing assignments and essays so that I can work on manageable sections whilst not losing sight of the overall structure. Offers secure sync to iCloud and Evernote and export to a range of formats including PDF. (A decent alternative is Outliner.)

  5. Case converter - Convert Case (free). If you’ve accidentally left Caps Lock on or if a journal title has appeared in all capitals in your references, you can quickly and easily convert the case with this handy tool. It also features a character count and word count.

  6. Plain text editor - EditPad (free). If you want to quickly make a note of something or if you want to strip the formatting out of some copied text before pasting it into another document, this is a brilliant tool. I use it all the time as it’s so simple and effective.

  7. Academic search - Google Scholar (free) and Google books (free). Google need no introduction, but the academic search is a great way to find journal articles in particular. Google Books sometimes has the full text of books and I’ve found that many Bible commentaries have big chunks that are freely accessible. It’s also good for checking bibliographical information for referencing.

  8. Bible study tools - I have written a previous blog post on specific Bible study tools which Christian researchers may find helpful.
I hope you enjoy using these tools and that you find them helpful in your own studies. As a bonus, here’s a huge list of tools for researchers, courtesy of connectedresearchers.com.


PrayerMate Send

August 30, 2018

For a few months now, I’ve been using PrayerMate Send which is a brilliant way to help people know what to pray for in my ministry. It’s ideal for anyone in Christian ministry, churches, youth groups, social action projects, charities and anyone that wants to encourage others to pray for their work.

PrayerMate is a great, free app for smartphones which allows users to organise the things they’re praying for, add contacts, create lists and subscribe to feeds from organisations and individ...

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Bible character collecting cards

August 23, 2018

I've always loved collecting things, especially fact cards, so I was really pleased to discover this free trading card creator. You can use one of their pre-made templates or create your own categories. The above example of Paul shows one I created to include information about when and where he lived, his role and family background, Bible books he appears in and wrote, major events in his life and a couple of famous quotes from Scripture.

They have ready-made templates for people, places, obje...
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The joy of giving

August 15, 2018

This morning I was interviewed as part of some research on charitable giving at Northumbria University. I was asked about which charities I give to, how I give and my motivations, which was a great opportunity to reflect.

I haven't always given to charity and for me it's been a process of growing in my faith, trusting God more, appreciating what he's giving me, and realising that what Jesus said is true - it really is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20: 35).

There are a number of thi...

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Picture This Thought

August 3, 2018

I'm exploring different ways to do discipleship and outreach, especially over the summer as it's harder to see people in person. I think that digital media can be a helpful tool to engage people with faith and help them to think about Jesus.

I have just started recording a short video reflection each day based on a photo I've taken. The aim is to think about what the picture might tell us about God and his world and my prayer is that it will spark offline conversations with students and others...

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Life in the Fast Lane

July 31, 2018

I have just had quite a busy two months, what with a work trip to Paris, running training in Birmingham, speaking at two conferences in London, doing a Master’s assignment, going to Granny’s funeral, completing the 3 week summer school intensive for my Master’s in Gloucester and visiting family in Manchester. I’m now home and supposedly having a bit of a rest, but I’ve realised how hard it is to stop.

I have a wooden block by my bed with the verse ‘Be still and know that I am God...

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What’s your favourite smell?

June 25, 2018

I've been thinking a lot recently about smells and more specifically about the power of smell to recall long-forgotten people and places from the distant past. We've probably all had the experience when we've been going about our daily lives when suddenly a scent will stop us in our tracks and we feel that we are once again in our grandmother's kitchen or walking through the school doors for the very first time. Smell can transport you back to the moment in a way that no other sense can and c...

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Sites for Christian book lovers

June 14, 2018

I love books and I'm a Christian, so I do enjoy Christian books (as anyone who knows me or has been to my house will attest!). I've collected a number of useful links to sites where you can buy books, read reviews and support Christian literature charities. Enjoy!

Sites for Christian book-lovers

  • Books For Life - Videos of Christian leaders talking about the books that have changed their lives.

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Are we efficiently miserable? Relational breakdown vs the Kingdom story

June 4, 2018

Sometimes it’s hard to see what the goal of human progress is. As technology develops, we’re doing things quicker and more efficiently than ever before, but at what cost?

We’re bugged by constant reminders and notifications. We have advanced technological systems to keep us in line and ‘on track’ but what’s it all for?

We seem to be advancing technologically at the expense of human contact and community. We've lost the ability to relate to strangers. We can now perform mos...

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Dramatic rescue

May 26, 2018

Abby and I had a lovely week in the Scottish Borders at the start of May, but it didn’t turn out quite as restful as expected, with me having to be airlifted to safety off a cliff! We’d walked along a coastal path to Siccar Point which has some fascinating geological formations. Abby wisely decided to stay up top, but I saw a rope by the fence so lowered myself down for a closer look. After exploring the rocks, I decided to try coming back up the steep slope an ‘easier’ way so I scram...

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