By Oluchi Okere

Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of a productive process and is determined by the rate of output per unit input. Productivity is associated with yield, efficiency and prolificity. Ever heard the axiom, work smart not hard! Indeed, access to and availability of productivity tools gives the task manager an opportunity to achieve goals smartly.

I have listed in this post some productivity tools that should make your writing up process not only less time-consuming but also more interesting and much easier. With productivity tools one should be able to manage the workflow of tasks more efficiently and even in some cases automatically. With the increasing application of AI to the design of research tools, apps have become more intelligent and exciting to use!

You might need to invest some time and data into learning how to use some of the tools. YouTube and blogs are replete with tutorials that should help any serious user understand how to use these tools effectively. Many of the tools have very gentle learning curves, meaning you can adjust to their use with very little practice.

Many of these tools are free while some have non-premium (but perhaps limited) and / or trial versions that can be used until a decision to pay for a premium version is made. A wise combination of these tools should boost your productivity as a researcher.

Reference Managers / Citation Managers

Collect, organize and reference your sources with ease and in various styles such as APA, MLA, Havard etc. with reference management tools. The most prominent in this class of productivity tools are Zotero and Mendeley. Others are Citavi, RefWorks and EndNote. Mendeley is excellent at capturing metadata from PDFs automatically. There are also citation generators /citation trackers like ZoteroBib and Cite This For Me (these can be used without creating an account). Check out this excellent resource A brief guide to using Mendeley as a reference and citation manager as an aid to write scholarly papers by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega which provides some clarification for Mendeley use. Say goodbye to the frustrating task of producing your paper reference at snail pace!

Grammar Checkers and spelling checkers

These tools help with proofreading and help detect spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. Prominent grammar checkers include Grammarly, ProWritingAid, HemmingwayAppHemmingway App highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors providing greater clarity to writing.

Focused/ Distraction free writing Apps

The first category of this group are daily habit tracking apps that keep the writer accountable to writing a certain number of words on a daily basis (usually a 750 daily word challenge). They include popular ones like 750Words, WriteHoney, 3Pages. The second category of these tools provide a minimalist distraction and cluster free interface that allows the writer focus on the immediate task of writing. Blindwrite, Ommwriter, Poe, FocusWriter are the commonest.

Database of links /full text and open access sources

Academic Microsoft, Paperity, BASE, DOAJ and Zenodo are databases and repositories for open access content. Unpaywall, LazyScholar, GoogleScholar provide links / are browser plugins that automatically locate an open version of any article.

Cloud Storage and collaboration tools

Cloud storage tools like Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive help store documents for backup or for easy access from any other device or location. GoogleDocs and Microsoft Word Online are good for collaborative writing/research. Team members can create, store, share and track their work remotely.

Visual literature search tools

To scope and map the literature/ find relevant sources on a particular concept, Connected Papers, Open Knowledge Maps and ResearchRabbit provide a visual map to guide the researcher. Information provided include prior and previous /cited and cited by works related to a given citation.

Mind mapping tools

Mind mapping and brainstorming are very useful during the conceptualization stage of research writing. It helps with organizing, outlining and planning of writing. Some popular ones used by researchers are: MindMeister, MindMup, and Coggle. Mindmeister advises “If you’ve been staring at a blank page for ages, try starting the writing process with a mind map instead. Mind mapping helps you plan and develop your ideas, eliminating writers block in the process”.

Notetaking / Planning / Project Management/Collaboration Apps

Workflowy, Notion and Roam Research stand out for planning stages of the research work. In fact, these tools are too complex to fit into one category as they have multiple uses including collaboration functions.

Outline and planning helps with the workflow of writing a manuscript from planning/outlining/formatting to submission. The App walks the writer from the abstract though to the conclusion section of the paper. Cut through your writer’s block incisively with

Knowledge Organisation

Citavi is not only great for reference management, it also supports knowledge organisation and task planning. Create a near complete paper “in a twinkling of an eye” by using the Knowledge organization tool of Citavi. The carefully annotated notes and tags become the “skeleton” of the paper. RAx is a for Literature analysis and comprehension tool. RAx analyses an imported document with its AI capability to find the “important” sections to be extracted as the necessary information for citation in a “project”.

In conclusion, productive researchers measure their results, not their time! Keep working smarter!

About the Author

As a professional librarian and trained instructional designer, I have a passion for improving the quality of scholarship by supporting researchers and academics. My website Productive Researcher’s Hub offers free and accessible resources and tips for enhanced productivity as an academic or researcher.

Contact: Twitter | LinkedIn

This article was originally written by Oluchi Okere for her site ‘The Productive Researcher’s Hub’ In October 2020, and has been republished here with permission.