Research Software

Doing briefs in a word processor is a pain in the neck. All those picky formatting details, citations… Here’s an incomplete list of research software that can help make things easier.

Free Software

Factsmith – Windows-only, but a Linux version has been in the works for some time. Factsmith is a powerful research package that allows you to cut cards using simple, easy drag-and-drop, and deals with briefs as databases. This allows lots of time-saving features; for example, you only need to modify a source or author once, and it’s updated everywhere it’s used. When you’re done, you can export briefs using completely customizable export styles, allowing for elegant and uniform formatting. COG 2009 is edited using Factsmith. More details and features are available on the website.

Zotero – Cross-platform (it’s a Firefox plugin.) It’s not really designed for debate research, so it doesn’t have some of the nifty debate-oriented features that other research software has, but some debaters have found it very useful. Zotero makes it easy to collect and classify articles and evidence and offers some useful formatting aids. A big plus: Because it’s Firefox based, it has spellcheck. Yay!

Commercial Software

Evidence Scribe – Windows-only for the desktop version, but there’s also a cross-platform web-based version in development. It’s uses a drag-and-drop, database-based system, somewhat like Factsmith, but it’s a bit different. It has generally gotten rave reviews, has been endorsed by Monument Publishing, and would definitely be a good buy if you like this sort of thing.

Blue Book Report – Cross-platform (web-based.) Just released, it’s free for use just for the summer (it’ll be commercial in the fall.) A license comes bundled with the team package for the popular Blue Book sourcebook. The layout is significantly different than Evidence Scribe or Factsmith, with a huge mess of sources (with cards in them) that you categorize and build briefs out of, instead of individual briefs, built of cards, which share sources. Formatting options are very limited, and it doesn’t have the ease of drag-and-drop that Evidence Scribe and Factsmith have. You also can’t edit briefs offline, or do backups. However, it has two big plusses: First, it’s web-based, so you can always have your evidence, even if you’re on a different computer, and second, the Blue Book is preloaded into it if you buy the sourcebook. This could be a big draw for some people.

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