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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Computer: a grad student’s best friend

Computers are a must for graduate students nowadays. Want to know why? Here are some instances in a grad student’s life when you would definitely need a computer:

• A decade ago statistical computations for grad researches are done either manually or with the help of a scientific calculator. You’ll need pages of scratch paper for this. Nowadays, statistical software such as SPSS, SAS, STATA, and Minitab can compute large amounts of data in seconds.

• Before, presentations by grad students are supplemented by visual aids specifically pieces of manila paper or cartolina (think “BitayMax”). Bullet points are written on it with permanent markers. Imagine what a tedious job it is to prepare pages of that for a 15 minute presentation. Now we have the manna for every grad student, PowerPoint. Pages of visual aids become virtual slides projected into an LCD screen for a small to large audience to see.

• Imagine typing your research paper or even your thesis or dissertation in a typewriter. This is what actually the case is some decades ago. How would you try to type in the page numbers, tables, charts, figures, or diagrams in a typewriter? Imagine the tons of correction paints you need to cover some typographical errors? Maybe that’s the reason why some grad students during that era dropped out of grad school during thesis or dissertation time.

• The arrival of the internet into our lives is what every grad student should celebrate. eBooks, PDF files, and web pages of every topic we can ever imagine can be surfed, browsed, and searched in the World Wide Web with just a few strokes and few clicks.

I entered graduate school for my master’s degree in 2001. Laptops were rare during that time. Even buying a desktop can shave out Php 30-40 thousand out of your pocket. A 128 MB USB drive costs more than a thousand pesos during that time. But I managed to save all my files in 3.5 floppy disks. However to make sure these files are secure, I saved them in my email. It’s all about file management.

Now laptops are everywhere. Desktops are cheap. USB drives can reach up to 16 GB in capacity and can still be affordable. Can’t see no reason why a graduate student won’t invest in a dependable computer set.

In my next post, I'll try to share some useful tips in making your computer useful for grad school.

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