Revisiting DiRtDirectory: JotForm


For students and academics conducting research, acquiring a library of digital research tools is essential. The DiRt Directory ( offers a free web based collection of digital research tools intended to support the collection and analysation of scholarly material. The directory offers a wide variety of tool categories, ranging from interpreting and publishing data to transcribing digital media.


Having previously explored the DiRt Directory, I chose to review CiteULike (, a free web based service for managing and discovering scholarly references.


Bearing in mind that this year we will be actively conducting research, a tool which appeared appealing was JotForm ( This digital tool allows the user to efficiently build web forms, for surveys, e-commerce sites or for any other research or business need. JotForm uses a web based platform and offers the user a free or paid version. The site uses an extremely user friendly drag and drop interface, which adds to the efficiency and simplicity of this tool. This tool appeared under the data collection category on the DiRt Directory.

Conducting surveys is inevitably a huge aspect of conducting any form of research either at an undergraduate or post graduate level. JotForm offers over nine thousand templates to their users, many of these being survey orientated. The process of building a survey using a given template was unsurprisingly efficient, quick and user orientated. There is an also an option to create a form (or survey in this case) from scratch. However, I found the templates to be a useful guideline for those only beginning to construct surveys.

For those building a form on the site, there are also themes to accompany the templates available, which makes customisation of the user’s work to be extremely easy.

Strictly for experimental purposes, I chose the topic of student’s social network usage in order to construct a short survey. The purpose of this survey is to exclusively exhibit how user friendly JotForm is and how simple it is to complete a simple form to collect data for research purposes.

Student’s Social Network Usage Survey:

The other functions JotForm has to offer should not be disregarded, they currently have nine million users and offer eighteen languages, adding to the sustainability and prosperity of the site.  They also have integrations with other web services such as PayPal, Google Drive, Drop Box, alongside many other services which can be added on to forms created for e-commerce sites or small businesses. JotForm’s accessibility and user interface makes it  very appealing for those looking to conduct research using online surveys or if one were to build an e-commerce presence, they offer options for payment forms as well as booking forms. JotForm’s usability appears to be endless whether it be for academic, business or casual use.




Getting Intimate With Text – Voyant Tools



As the digital age progresses, the way in which we can interpret and present data is transforming. With the help of digital tools and new technologies, information can be digitally visualised in order to improve its aesthetic appeal, as well as its clarity. Text data can be considered as one dimensional and is the simplest method of presenting data. It can be time consuming and impractical to analyse rows of text data. Humans are visual creatures, processing information based on what we see (McCue, 2013). Traditional textual formats of communicating information are changing into a more appealing, clear format of data visualisation.


Voyant Tools, is a web-based project which offers its users a free reading and analysis environment for digital texts. Being an open source project, Voyant Tools is available to anyone who wishes to use it, and it accommodates a number of different languages. There are a number of different tool options that are accessible to users on Voyant 2.0. I decided to visualise the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The reason behind choosing this piece of digital text, was because of the Proclamation’s   significance this year. Ireland commemorated the 100th year anniversary of the 1916 Easter rising.

Using Voyant 2.0, the piece of text could be visualised in many different formats. I firstly viewed the piece of text using the Cirrus option, which is a word cloud that displays the frequency of terms that appear in a piece of digital text.  Terms which occur more frequently appear larger on the word cloud. There is also a summary tool which accompanies the cirrus word cloud. This gives the user exact information on how frequent particular terms appear in their text. The words ‘Irish’, ‘people’ and ’government’ were some of the most frequent terms, apart from words such as ‘The’ and ‘of’, which have no noticeable significance to the matter of the text. For this reason, it is of importance that the user understands their text and its content. While the Cirrus tool visualises the frequency of terms, the user’s understanding of the text’s content is important when analysing their visualisation. One could conclude that since the words ‘Irish’ and ‘people’ were used so frequently, the republic was declaring independence from the United Kingdom for the benefit of the Irish people. Since the majority of Irish people wanted a republic, independent of the United Kingdom, the frequency of these terms might reflect the desires of the Irish people.


Visualising the 1916 Proclamation using the Cirrus tool.

Secondly, the digital text was visualised using the Trends option on Voyant 2.0. This particular option visualises the document in a graph format. The relative frequencies within the piece of text are displayed using a line graph. Each term found within the text is assigned a colour, which then represents that term on the line graph. This tool breaks the document into segments, graphing the frequencies of words in each segment. There is also a key above the graph, showing what word belongs to what colour, I found this to be extremely helpful. The Trends option also allows users to visualise a number of texts on a single graph. This would be beneficial for data comparison purposes. The graph proved to be aesthetically pleasing and could easily be integrated into a project or study.  From visualising the proclamation in a graph format, it can be concluded that the term ‘government’ is of significance within the document. According to the graph, the term ‘government’ was almost consistently frequent within each segment of the text. Since, the terms ‘people’ and ‘right’ are most frequent together in segment 4, it can be concluded that these terms share a relationship. Perhaps an observation that could be made, is that the ‘people’ of Ireland have the ‘right’ to a republic.


Visualising the Proclamation using the Trends tool.


The ‘Links’ tool, displays a network graph of higher frequency terms within the text and words that appear to be related or in proximity to these key words. Key words appear green in colour, while words that are presumed to be linked to these key words appear blue in colour. This tool proves to be very visually pleasing and puts the content of the text into perspective, through linking frequent terms in the text with terms in their proximity. The use of colour also enhances the attraction of this particular tool. It successfully creates a clear and concise visualisation. For example, from viewing my document using the links tool, the term Irish has been linked with, republic, generation, citizen and people. The links made here, present an accurate representation of the content within the document. The links tool could most definitely be utilised in both an academic and business environment. One of the reasons people  visualise numeric or text data is to compare and contrast, exposing the links between information within the data. This tool successfully links terms within my text document, in a simple, clear, coherent manner.


Visualising the 1916 Proclamation using the Links tool.


The TermsRadio tool on Voyant 2.0, uses a graph format to display word occurrence over a period of time within a piece of text. The document is split into segments, the word occurrence within each segment is represented using colours and words themselves. Having analysed my piece of text using the TermsRadio tool, it can be noted that the terms ‘republic’ and ‘arms’ occur the most in segment three of the text, while the term ‘Irish’ occurs almost equally in all segments.The relationship between the terms ‘republic’ and ‘arms’ suggests that even though Ireland did not have the arms to sustain a permanent, National government, a temporary provisional government would suffice. This provisional government would administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic, until they had the appropriate arms to establish a permanent government for the Republic.  One could make various observations from using the TermsRadio tool and apply these back to the context of their data. This tool would be beneficial to those who wish to compare and contrast data within a single document.


Visualising the 1916 Proclamation using the TermsRadio tool.


The Stream Graph is also another tool which visualises data using a graph format. While the other graph formats had used lines to represent the data, this particular one uses shapes accompanied by colour. There is a key available to the user, where the colour which represents each term is shown. Compared to the other graphs, I found this graph to be considerably more difficult to interpret. It appears that the larger the shape, the more frequent a term is. Similarly to the TermsRadio tool, the graph breaks the document into segments. Therefore the shapes on the graph represent the dominance of certain terms within particular segments. Visualising my document through using the Stream Graph was not as clear and concise as the other graphs. Line graphs enable for a more concise, clear interpretation to be made by the user. From analysing this graph, it is clear there are relationships between the terms ‘Irish ‘ and ‘people’. This relationship is reflected by the combination of orange and blue within the shape. Similarly, the terms ‘republic’ and ‘right’ are visualised together, once again, reflecting the content of the proclamation.


Visualising the 1916 Proclamation using the Stream Graph.


Having experimented with Voyant tools, it is evidently a beneficial, innovative resource that promotes the transformation of reading and interpreting text data in a digital environment.  Voyant’s simple approach to visualising text data is what makes it appealing to the everyday user. In terms of what the visualisation process has added to my understanding of the content of the text, I was able to see links and relationships between certain terms more efficiently. The frequency of terms also indicated to me what factors were most important to those proclaiming Ireland’s independence from the United Kingdom. To conclude, the entire visualisation process enabled me to understand the content of my document more effectively. It enabled me to compare and contrast terms within the text efficiently.


McCue,T. (2013) Why Infographics Rule. Available at: [Accessed 1 April 2016]


Reviewing a digital tool: CiteULike


Locating information for academic purposes is already challenging, sorting the information found is another common struggle among students and academics. Availing of the internet and online search engines for sources has become increasingly popular as supported by Reiger’s (2009) study. Collecting and sorting references can be a time consuming process, CiteULike is a digital tool that helps make this process more efficient. CiteULike allows the user to store, organise and share the scholarly papers they have sourced. Citation details are extracted automatically from the users’ personal library, where the selected papers are stored. CiteULike works from within the users’ web browser, adding to the accessibility of this tool. For the purpose of this review, CiteULike will be evaluated under a set of criteria;

Sustainability: How long has the tool been available for? Is the tool widely used? Can data be exported?

Efficiency: How easy is this tool to navigate? Does the tool supply adequate information for new users? Does this tool perform as it claims to?

Contribution to Knowledge: Does this tool contribute to the efficiency of the users’ research process?  Can data collected be shared with others?

Firstly, the tool will be evaluated in terms of its sustainability. CiteULike has been available as a free web service since 2004. As of 2007, there were 33,000 registered users, this number was reported to be growing at 100 users per day (Emamy & Cameron,2007). CiteUlike has accumulated a large community of users and is continuing to grow. The unique combination of a bibliographic management tool and a social bookmarking service is what makes CiteUlike so appealing. There are currently over 8 Million articles stored via CiteULike , compared to over 2 Million in 2009 (

CiteULike users and their selected articles are not confined to their web browser, the users’ personal library can be exported to their computer in various formats (ie. PDF,RTF,Plaintext). Since CiteULike is an open source tool, the content available depends on the amount of active users and the type of papers they are storing. CiteULike is evidently a very sustainable, viable tool that promotes the sharing of knowledge and has a large community of users.

Secondly, CiteULike will be evaluated in terms of its efficiency. The basic navigation and functionality of the tool is simple, step by step assistance is offered for new users. Scholarly papers can be stored instantly once the CiteULike browser button is installed. Users can organise their papers in their own personal library, which can be organised by user generated tags. These tags enable users to navigate libraries and discover new papers that have mutual tags. Users also have the option to prioritise papers of superior importance, adding to the efficiency of this tool. CiteULike also offers an alphabetical listing of journals as an alternative for users who decide not to locate their own articles.


Another addition, is the subject specific pages where the latest papers are listed according to the subject they are classified under. This enables the user to explore papers under a specified category in an efficient, easily accessible way. “Citegist” displays the most popular articles in the past seven days within CiteULike. In this way, it is easy for a user to uncover new, popular articles that may be of relevance. CiteULike is unquestionably a highly efficient tool for collecting, storing and sharing scholarly papers.

Finally, CiteULike will be evaluated in terms of its contribution to knowledge. This particular tool facilitates the sharing and consumption of academic literature (Emamy & Cameron, 2007). A function entitled “neighbours” is incorporated in CiteULike, users who have bookmarked the same articles are shown here, connections can be made between users. Researchers in similar fields can build up professional networks, thus promoting knowledge sharing.


Since every users’ bibliographic database is web based, users can browse each other’s collections. Of course this is not favourable for every individual, but gives users the opportunity to share and consume new academic information. The use of user generated tags also contributes to CiteULike’s contribution to knowledge. Users can explore academic papers under tags that interest them, which enables them to uncover articles others have collected.

In terms of CiteULike’s contribution to the efficiency of one’s research process, it succeeds in making the collecting and sorting of sources an easy task. It is an added bonus that the collections of others can be viewed. Not only does CiteULike act as a social bookmarking service, it also efficiently extracts the relevant metadata required for the bibliographic database (Emamy & Cameron, 2007). This contributes to the efficiency of the research process, sources can be cited almost effortlessly.

To present all perspectives fairly, the limitations of CiteULike must also be considered. Since CiteULike is an open source, their success is dependent on input from their users. CiteULike also has visible competition, Zotero being one of them. It is notable that it is mainly only articles available to store in the users’ personal library (Suhrstedt, 2009). It would be beneficial for CiteULike to be compatible with other forms of sources such as audio and video.

To conclude, CiteULike encompasses much more than just a bibliographic management service. It allows for professional networks to be built among users who share similar academic interests. CiteULike’s simple functionality and accessibility makes it an appealing outlet for those conducting academic research. Having evaluated this tool under the set of criteria (outlined above) it is evidently a beneficial digital tool that could be used universally.


-Emamy, K. and Cameron, R. (2007) Citeulike: A Researcher’s Social Bookmarking Service. Available at: [Accessed 9 February 2016]

-Rieger, O.Y. (2009) ‘Search engine behaviour of students and faculty: User perceptions and implications for future research’, First Monday, 14 (12), pp.1-5. Available at [Accessed 8 February 2016]

-Suhrstedt, L. (2009) Citeulike. Available at: [Accessed 9 February 2016] [Accessed 9 February 2016]