Google Tools for Collaborative Research

Google has some great tools for facilitating research, and in particular, collaborative research. Google’s web based approach to it’s tool set makes collaboration much simpler, and allows researchers to move from computer to computer, and still allow them to access their research. In particular the Google tools can help in the following areas:

  • Collaborative Document Editing, including concurrent editing of a single document, and basic version control
  • Capturing, organizing and searching digital documents. And doing this collaboratively with other research partners.
  • Easily track the progress and changes to documents of your collaborators via RSS feeds in an online reader.
  • Publish quickly and easily via blog software that is integrated with their document editing / collaboration infrastructure.

Where to Start?

All you need to give it a try, is to get a Google account (if you don’t already have one). If you have a Gmail account, then you have all you need to try it out. If you don’t have a Gmail account, then you can go to the following page to sign up for a free account (and you can use your current e-mail address as your account name if you wish). Go to the google home page and click on the "Sign in" link on the top right of the page. From there, click on the "Create an account now" link on the right side of the page. After signing up you’re now ready to go.

Reviewing the Tools

  • Google Documents and spreadsheets (
    • Create Documents (show them the Google for Students document)
    • Collaborative Editing. 45 seconds to 1 minute for changes made by someone else to be reflected in the document (or when you navigate to "insert" for example.
    • Revisions & Basic Version Control.
    • RSS feed to revisions (under "Collaborate" tab. Must be Published to the public to be viewable)
    • Currently no footnotes. End notes are done manually by creating the end note first, inserting a bookmark, and then linking to the bookmark from the reference.
    • Can put in links to other web resources.
    • Can ad comments to the document that are only viewable in the edit mode.
    • Can post directly to your BLOG if you’d like.
    • Can tag documents (rather than put into sub-folders – much better way of organizing).
  • Google Reader (
    • Great general news reader that you can access from anywhere…
    • Wonderful in that it allows you to monitor changes made to the document you are collaborating on.
  • Google Notebook (
    • Allows you to grab Internet text, and keep citation information, to organize your research.
    • Can share notebooks with others so you can collaborate on the research you’re doing! (see KM & Collaboration as an example).
    • Browser extension makes it very nice to use (both IE and FireFox).
    • No current ability to have RSS feeds for Notebooks… Lots of people asking for it though.
    • No current tagging functionality. Lots of people asking for this though.
  • Delicious ( – a Yahoo , not a Google product, but still important
    • Some overlap with Google Notebook.
    • Notable differences are: Has RSS feeds for tags. Just keeps link, does not grab and store text on server (i.e. if link dies, you info is lost).
  • Google Talk (chat and voip)
    • Allows you to chat and "Talk" (if you’re on a windows machine).
    • No real extra functionality beyond what others offer.
  • Gmail (
    • Very nice to use… Chat capability built in.
    • Automatically groups and threads your e-mail.
    • Spam filter is excellent.
  • Blogger (
    • Everything can be accessed via the blog & or RSS feeds.
    • Free, and easy to use.


    While not full featured, the Google tool set is powerful becuase of its easy to use on-line interface. All you need is a web browser and an internet connection

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