Citizen Developer Spotlight: A Grad Student’s Database

citizen_developer_spotlight_grad_student

I’m Kimberly Trapkus and I work here on the TrackVia team as a Customer Support Advocate. I’m one of the friendly folks that answers our customers’ product questions. In addition to work, I’m a graduate student and a citizen developer.

Here’s the problem with being a graduate student and working full time – trying to find an ideal work-life balance. I have spent weeks doing research for my capstone project and printing out scholarly articles which appear relevant to my topic of interest.

My process was as follows: perform a search at multiple search engines, read the abstract, then print the document if I felt it was relevant. After the first week of research, I realized I had gone to the office supply store to pick up more paper or ink too many times. When I sat down to review the stack of documents, I noticed I had printed many articles more than once, sometimes even three times. Furthermore, over 70% of the articles that I printed turned out to be irrelevant for my capstone argument. I needed a better way to track what I had printed and reviewed, and a way to view the summary of the article for a quick reference search. I needed to reduce the amount of paper, ink and time spent to only relevant documents — and squeeze a little fun time into my life!

From frustrated student to citizen developer

To solve my problem, I became a citizen developer and created a custom application in TrackVia. Luckily, all of my research can be done through my school’s online library resources. Even though I could use the online library to narrow down my search or save my relevant articles for that session, I was unable to insert my own notes or thoughts on the article. Two great features about my eLibrary are the capability to create a permalink and the ability copy and paste an auto-generated citation into my own reference page. Lucky for me, I can copy and paste these straight into a TrackVia Web form, which is part of my custom application. Here is a glimpse into what I called my ‘Quick Entry Form’:

citizen_developer_trackvia_form

In my Web form, there is a field called ‘Include in Project?’, which I made as a drop-down list with the choices: yes, no, maybe. Just in case I forgot to enter the information, I made it a required field. A ‘yes’ means I have reviewed the article, like it, and printed it. ‘No’ means that I reviewed it, found it irrelevant to my study, and it can be discarded. A ‘maybe’ means I need to go back to the permalink and review the full study to decide whether or not to keep it.

When a study is moved to a status of ‘yes’, I need to know more details about the authors’ research. For this, I created another Web form called ‘Data Input’ for recording more information.

citizen_developer_data_input
citizen_developer_research_design

When I find a new article that I may want to include in my capstone project, I can use the search feature to see if it is something I have already evaluated. I created a view in TrackVia called ‘Quick View’ to search. By copying the article’s exact title and entering it into my search bar, TrackVia will search my current citations to see if I have the article already. If the search does not come up with any results, then I can click on the ‘Add Record’ button.

To keep track of the articles I have printed, I added an auto counter feature to my table. In the upper right corner of my printed documents, I simply write the number recorded in the auto counter field. I can open the respective record in my database to view the information I found relevant instead of having to scan the entire article again.

citizen_developer_trackvia_record

Now, with all of the data I have entered into my TrackVia app, I can create a filter to group studies by country, the type of diabetes the authors were monitoring, which medical research database it was obtained from, or even group them by sample size and outcome results.

Reap huge benefits as a citizen developer

By becoming a citizen developer, I was able to reduce my carbon footprint, save the time needed to read and re-read articles, eliminate duplicate information, search by keywords, and much more.

The best part of being a citizen developer and creating a custom application in TrackVia is that when I am ready to formulate my final capstone project, I can create a document merge template. TrackVia will automatically generate my reference page! The time it took me to create my custom application was less than 30 minutes. Not bad for a first-time citizen developer! The amount of time TrackVia has saved me is tremendous, and I’m much more able to balance the demands of work life, grad student life and personal time.

Are you a citizen developer? Do you have a similar TrackVia experience? I’d love to hear what problem(s) you’ve been able to solve in the comments section below.

Join the citizen developer movement and sign up for your own 14-day trial of TrackVia.