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Category: Deep Literacy

Citation Lifts

A practical problem in the literature review process is when the user comes across a citation in a document they are reading which looks interesting. The user will need to decide whether to ignore the citation, highlight it somehow for follow up later, follow the citation and either simply add it to a list or management software as another item to the stack or stop reading the current document read the cited document then and there.

To deal with this, the Liquid Reader will therefore allow the following action when a user comes across a citation in a standard PDF document:

The user selects the cited text, including the bracketed citation name & date or the superscript number and chooses a ‘Lift’ command. The software then (automatically and invisibly to the user) jumps to the end of the document for the References/bibliography section where it scans for the reference and uses the extra information to search for it online.

The search results is then presented to the user who can choose to tag and colour code the citation and/or write a note.

If possible, the user can also download the document at this stage. On ‘Save,’ the citation is added to the user’s list of literature review documents for access by any of the above meta-information (where it was found, text in the quote, tag, date found etc.) for opening in the Liquid Reader or Liquid View. Import in a citation management system is also an option.

This will deal with the issue of ‘analog-hyperlinks’ where attention becomes diluted by (potentially useful) distractions by providing the simple function to Lift the cited document to access in a findable way later, while at the same time building up a picture of the knowledge space.

Documents using the suggested Rich PDF formats will be able to support this process more robustly but it should be possible to enable on most PDF documents.

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A Clear & Present Opportunity

Time for Better Literature Research

Universities and reading glasses were invented roughly simultaneously (coincidence?), during the 13th century. There were counties for students to have books copied for studying of which I won’t waste our time going through the details of how it wasted their time. It seems however, that not much has changed. Today’s academic is more likely to print out the sources for their literature review than to read it in digital form (Walsh, 2016), even though there are many different types of digital devices to read them on, from reflective to transmissive tablets and from laptops to desktops.

I am not writing about the pros and cons of paper versus digital for general reading but I do mean to highlight that there is a real opportunity to build an ecosystem where digital reading of professional material (someone one reads to learn, not for enjoyment primarily) can benefit from the potentially connected nature of digital text environments.

We will necessarily have to start with PDFs since they are the dominant form of academic knowledge transmission units, though of course support ePubs and other formats as well.

Workflow

The suggested flow is simply this:

annotate

A user reads a document for their research and highlights interesting sections, writes notes in the margin and also generally about the document. The user also also jots down ideas as the reading and research process progresses. Furthermore, the reading applications gives the user a rich set of facilities to view the document as she sees fit, including flexible ways to access keywords, summaries, abstracts, links, references and connections and so on, some of which we have implemented in Liquid Author and Flow.

access

All the literature review the user has read is accessible through keyword search, including specifying whether to only search highlighted text, annotations, notes or full text. When the user copies text from a document and pastes it into the document their are authoring, all the salient citation information is included and is copied across (since this is not possible by default, they system will need a fast and elegant way for the user to help add this to the document on opening/at leisure and in future automatically use what authoring systems will append as meta-information).

All the literature review the user has yet to read is also accessible through searches and can be bunched based on keywords, citations and other criteria.

All the literature the user has yet to access, which is connected to the users work by being cited in current work is also accessible.

The visual space of connecting literature can be developed by anyone since the connectors will be made clearly available. The weblau is one direction which can be powerfully useful in this regard.

A more Liquid Reader

This could make the literature review process a truly liquid, smooth and rich affair. This is not rocket science or heading far out into the unknown, this can provide clear and immediate benefits.

We have started experimental work around this workflow, with the Liquid | Reader but this will require more investment to continue til completion, particularly since the standards of searching for academic document is so incoherent and therefore many searches engines will need to be strung together.

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