Managing and inserting quotes are integral parts of essays and dissertations alike, but academic writers don’t have adequate tools. I did interviews and contextual inquiries to understand their work lives and design something better for them. Self-initiated, 2017.


Most of my interviewees were PhDs and adjunct professors. They quote to acknowledge existing work, bolster arguments, anchor prose, and even plan overall structure. Their work lives are unbound by the desk, based on artifact or environment cues, mostly chaotic but organic, and sometimes high-stake.

Existing reference management software don’t manage quotes well enough and have overly complicated interfaces. Using them to navigate an already-massive quote database in the middle of a time-limited qualifying is too much cognitive effort.

On mobile

Using an app to capture quotes can better fit academics’ mobile work lives, while managing quotes can still be done on the desktop. The app also does related tasks like preliminary metadata matching and simple annotating.

After taking a picture of the page, the app would OCR the image into highlightable text.

On desktop

The mac app has three main views: library, tags, and mindmap. The library allows the writer to tag and edit imported quotes, while tags gives a quick overview of tag frequency and potentially other relevant metrics to help the writer gauge project direction. Finally, the mindmap helps the writer stay organized in handling complex writing structures.

The right panel shows notes and original images related to the capture.

Search keywords hit not only title and text, but also author lastname.

Visualized tag frequency helps the user gauge whether his/her project is on the right track.

After drag and drop, quotes are represented by dots on the mindmap.

Since my time was limited, both app designs went through only two rounds of testing and feedback.


Quotes remain incomplete both in research and design due to its self-initiated nature. Nevertheless, it was my first attempt at doing research and design all on my own. This project gave me a deeper understanding about the chaotic and organic nature of human life, and made me truly appreciate the significance in designing one thing that fits many people.