Today, one need not physically visit a library and take down notes on sheaves of paper (which are apt to fly about or clutter one’s workspace!). Various online tools and software applications (apps) have made our lives easier, especially the many helpful apps for researchers.
(This article was first published by Researcher.Life, Cactus Communications.)
The use of apps to ease workload, manage time, or spark creativity are rapidly becoming de rigueur in all areas of work. In academia too, several apps for researchers are designed to help with daily activities, such as collecting and organizing resources, managing collaborative projects, maintaining daily and longer-term schedules, searching for and reading articles, and staying updated on multidisciplinary topics related to a study domain.
Here, I describe some of the best apps for researchers that can are available for free and can simplify both day-to-day tasks and research-related activities.
1. Trello: Streamline individual and collaborative projects
Researchers need to keep track of various activities to optimize their productivity. A useful app for researchers, Trello is a user-friendly app wherein one can create work boards for different projects and populate them with tasks. The user can assign deadlines and keep updating ongoing progress. Work boards can be shared with all team members, thereby smoothening collaborative working.
Trello offers tools to coordinate tasks among members working remotely or disparately, say, team members on the field and those in the lab. This is a particularly useful app for researchers involved in large projects, working with researchers situated across the globe. With this app you can track team projects and monitor in detail the progress of tasks under way. This can be counted among the best apps for researchers as it enables the visualization of workflows, providing team members with a comprehensive overview of a project from beginning to end. Integration with other applications allows users to access features in Gmail or other apps directly from Trello.
Easy to use app for researchers
Flexible and versatile
Helps manage collaborative projects
2. Evernote: Organize your thoughts and ideas
Are you still relying on Post-its and notepads? Do you jot down sudden ideas on a napkin in a coffee shop or on a scrap of paper while working in the lab? Note-taking apps like Evernote can help you make lists and take notes and never lose them. A handy app for researchers, Evernote helps you store all your ideas and thoughts, to-do lists, notes, and research links in one place. You can keep all these bits and bobs organized by creating separate tags and folders for different purposes.
The Evernote web clipper is a useful feature for saving articles, web pages, or screen grabs from the internet. You can save a page or highlights to your Evernote notebook along with any notes you want to make about that page. It allows you to sync your notes to all your devices, enabling you to organize your notes across multiple platforms. Further, this is one of the best apps for researchers because its multimedia features let you annotate images, embed files and pictures in your notes, and even record audio and video notes.
Maintains notes, articles, and other content in one place
Facilitates content clipping from the web
Auto-sync across devices with this app for researchers
3. R Discovery: Search Less, Read More
Researchers spend a large part of their time wading through a sea of literature, sifting out the relevant from the irrelevant. R Discovery is a free literature discovery app and is a great platform that lets you identify the most relevant academic research papers from top journals and publishers. This reading app for research papers covers all major disciplines in the arts and sciences.
R Discovery offers customized research reading, that is, once you set up your areas of interest, the app for research papers finds the top 3 reads and presents them in the form of a daily feed for you. Powered by AI, it learns your reading interests and finds matching relevant papers. It even provides on-the-go updates on recently published articles through notifications and email alerts making it one of the best apps for researchers. R Discovery offers a weekly roundup of the 5 latest articles and summaries of research articles from trending topics. With this intuitive app for research papers, you need not worry about a crucial article slipping through the cracks when you weren’t looking!
When you feed in key terms, the app “deep-dives” into the topics and offers articles, which you can sort by recency or relevance. It even helps you look for similar papers and bookmark important research papers. Mobile and web integration lets you read your bookmarked articles on the R Discovery website. What’s more, to customize your feed, you can even import your reading library from Mendeley and Zotero making this a must have app for researchers.
R Discovery can be considered a literature search and reading app for researchers everywhere that steers you in the right direction during your academic voyage!
Curates 96+ million research articles, including over 24 million open access articles
Intuitively provides key highlights, summaries, and roundups of research relevant to one’s field
Integration with reference managers enables the R Discovery app for researchers to make better recommendations.
4. Mendeley: Handle reference lists without getting bogged down
The thought of sorting and drawing up a reference list and formatting the in-text citations and references can make the most seasoned scholars break out into a sweat. However, useful apps for researchers like Mendeley take the load off these painstaking tasks and offer much more. Mendeley is a free reference management app that automatically generates bibliographies as you write. You don’t need to manually type references; Mendeley imports and organizes them in a systematic manner. The app for researchers allows you to insert citations and create reference lists in different journal formats rapidly and seamlessly. These features free up lot of time, which can be used to focus on paper or thesis writing.
Mendeley is available in both mobile and desktop formats, and researchers can conveniently read content on the go and even highlight text that they might want to return to. Researchers can export papers from the R Discovery app to Mendeley and Zotero. Once exported, they can find these papers in their libraries on ref managers. They can also connect their Mendeley and Zotero accounts with R Discovery (when they are setting up preferences on R Discovery). This will allow for this smart app for researchers to suggest topics based on the Mendeley or Zotero reading list.
Helps annotate and organize documents
Can be used across platforms seamlessly
Integrates with literature discovery apps for researchers like R Discovery.
5. Calm: Prevent burnout and focus on self-care
Researchers work for long hours, juggling multiple research tasks, securing funding, and dealing with stressors like dealing with harsh peer reviewer comments and article rejection. These factors can add up and affect a researcher’s mental well-being and motivation. Some indicators can point to one’s need to focus on self-care, such as altered sleep patterns. A stressed researcher will constantly feel tired and be less efficient at work.
Calm is a popular app for researchers looking to help reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and aid in relaxation and self-improvement. The app provides sessions for guided meditation and breathing and masterclasses for managing stress, enhancing creativity, and much more. The use of such apps can even improve concentration and mindfulness. This is a great app for researchers to use to remain calm in the face of high work pressure, roadblocks in your experiments, and creative blocks when writing papers. A few minutes a day on such an app can help you break negative patterns. After all, a happy researcher is a productive researcher!
Tracks a user’s basic statistics, e.g., minutes of meditation
Sends meditation reminders
Offers masterclasses taught by experts in the field of wellness.
Don’t worry, be “appy”! Technological innovations like AI are constantly improving apps in terms of functions and user experience. While some apps for researchers help to ease the workload or aid in multitasking, others help in self-improvement and time management to let researchers focus better on core tasks. When possible, one should use some of these best apps for researchers to become savvier and more efficient, getting the most out of their time and effort.