Five apps to organize your Research Work

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I believe that doing research is more about managing your resources productively than about possessing academic aptitude, knowledge, and skills for it.

A research scholar or a PhD candidate with limited talent but an unbounded enthusiasm to learn new skills, to explore new areas, and with an organized mind can have a productive research career.

Managing time, talent, and emotions become a challenge especially if you are a part-time research student. By part-time, I mean if you have enrolled for a PhD program and work in some organization to support your PhD studies and family.

During my PhD program, I struggled a lot to keep track of papers I have to read, articles I have read and balancing my research time with my job and family time.

Also, I needed to commute weekly from my research place to workplace. Carrying a bag loaded with notes, papers, books used to drain my energy while travelling in a crowded Mumbai local train.

One of the greatest things that I observed during my PhD studies is the revolution in modes of communications from snail mails to mobile messages.

In the year 2004, I received the news of getting selected for a PhD program at Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai through a letter sent via Indian Postal Service. I received the letter at Lonere, a place 150 km from Mumbai, after the eight days from its dispatch by the Academic office at IIT-Mumbai.

In the year 2012, I got the news of receipt of the referee’s report from my adviser over mobile while I was travelling.

Yes, you are correct. I took eight years to complete my PhD program.

One of the factors that contributed to lengthening PhD program is the lack of awareness of tools to organize my resources like time, information and emotions.

During the last few years, I have come across a range of tools which I find very useful to manage my resources efficiently while supervising my PhD students.

These tools are particularly attractive when you see in the backdrop of how technology is revolutionalizing our daily activities.

Recommending apps, like I will be discussing here, is a risky business in the light of the recent controversy surrounding apps like Zoom.

I am recommending these apps, assuming that you are a kind of research student who follows the advice of the supervisor.

I am suggesting these apps solely based on their utility. I am not aware of any security threats they pose to your private data. In case you are doubtful please double-check before adopting them.

  1. Notion: I came across this app while searching for a note-taking app for me. I started using Google’s Keep for that purpose. But I found its functionality very limited. Notion is more than just a note-taking app. It is a project management tool, a to-do list manager, calenders to keep your schedules, a contact manager, a goalkeeper, a journaling tool and many more to offer customized functionality. It is your unpaid personal secretary diligently working to make you efficient.
  2. Mendeley: It helps you to manage the research articles that you are referring for research. It helps you to create a personalized library holding your annotated articles, highlighted text and margin notes. You can categorize and organize articles. Further, Mendeley suggests you relevant research articles, drastically reducing the time you spend on searching such articles on Google Scholar. Also, Mendeley is a social networking platform where you can post your opinions and look for opportunities for funding and job.
  3. Overleaf: Overleaf is a cloud-based Latex editing tool available in premium and non-premium version. The tool is designed to support collaborative writing of research articles. In non-premium mode, you can invite at the most one collaborator who can be your research supervisor. It relieves you from the burden of installing individual packages, setting their path correctly, compiling a latex file, linking with bibliography files and finally visualizing your document. All this can be done through one-click.
  4. Grammarly: The most needed tool for any non-native English writers. It is a grammar and spell checker. In recent times Grammarly has added many functionalities like tone detector, goal setting and plagiarism checker. I found a four times improvement in the readability score of the document and a 90 per cent reduction in grammatical errors after using it.
  5. Headspace: I have included this app because of the benefits that you get through meditation and to underline the significance of doing it. Being a practitioner and beneficiary of doing meditation regularly, I realized the importance of meditation during the last stage of my PhD program. It helps you to control your thoughts, focus your mind on a small topic, and to overcome your emotional nature. It helps you to look at things as they are, uncovering the essence of the area that you are exploring.

All these apps are available on desktop, web and mobile devices. You can access the documents that you create through these apps easily from anywhere.

Arvind is a Professor of Computer Engineering in Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University Lonere India.