Productivity Tools for the Academic Writer: a few resources to make research and writing easier and more efficient

Academic writing can be a long and arduous process even for experienced researchers, but an increasing number of tools and resources are now available to help you boost your focus, organize your research notes, and get down to writing.

Here are some of the best.

Tools for organizing your sources and research material

BibSonomy helps you manage your publications and bookmarks, collaborate with your colleagues, and find new material for your research. You can easily create and share lists of bookmarks and literature as well as creating bibliographies and exporting them in the desired format.

Citavi is a reference management program that supports your entire research process, from searching databases and library catalogs to writing your paper, dissertation, article, report, annotated bibliography or book. Also available as an add-in for Word.

Clockify is a free time-tracking app that doesn’t just help you stay focused and organized. You can add an unlimited number of users (great for team projects!) and get their data calculated automatically.
Weekly and visual reports, and a comprehensive team dashboard, will help you analyze tracked time and productivity. Clockify works across multiple platforms and integrates with 100+ popular business apps.

LazyScholar is a free browser extension for Chrome and Firefox to help your literature search. Open any scholarly article and Lazy Scholar will search for a free full text. Not only can it integrate with your library database, it can also provide various citation metrics (Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, Web of Science; Journal rank, Altmetric, etc.) and quickly find related papers you may want to read.

Mendeley is a unique platform comprising an academic social network, reference manager, and article visualization tools to help you manage your research, showcase your work, and connect and collaborate with over six million researchers worldwide. With Mendeley you can turn even the largest set of documents into a fully searchable, easy-to-manage library, read and annotate content via desktop client, browser or mobile app, and easily create references and bibliographies with thousands of styles to choose from.

Paperity is the first multi-disciplinary aggregator of Open Access journals and papers, providing easy access to thousands of journals from hundreds of disciplines.

Altmetrics tracks what people are saying about papers online on behalf of publishers, authors, libraries and institutions and offers a range of free tools for researchers—from bookmarklets enabling you to instantly see altmetric data for any published research with a DOI to badges you can embed on your personal website or CV.

Harvard World Map is an online, open source mapping platform developed to allow scholars to explore, visualize, edit, and publish geospatial information.

Papers can search across 20+ academic engines in one go and will let you organize, cite, highlight, underline and add sticky notes to your documents.

Writing tools

Manuscript is a free writing app that lets you plan, edit and share your work. It will help you format your article according to the guidelines of your chosen journal, and it can even warn you of missing sections, violated word limits, and many more factors affecting your submission. You can easily export a version of the document in several formats: Word, PDF, Markdown, HTML, and LaTeX.

Typeset is an online writing and formatting platform. It works with most reference management software, including Mendeley, Zotero, and Paperpile, and lets you format your article according to the submission requirements of your target journal. You can use Typeset to collaborate seamlessly with any number of peers and export your article to Word, LaTeX or PDF.

Scrivener is an easy to use and versatile word processor—flexible enough to complement the way you think and work when writing, whatever your style. It allows you to compose your text in any order, in sections as large or small as you like, and its drag and drop interface lets you write on virtual note cards and organize them by theme.

Time management apps

Trello is a free and incredibly easy to use project management and collaboration app that lets you know at a glance what’s being worked on and who’s working on it. It organizes your projects into boards, lists and cards, allowing you to add comments, upload file attachments, create checklists, add labels and due dates, and more.

Evernote is one of the best note-taking apps available. You can save, organize, and sync across all your devices typed text, audio recordings, reminders, images, handwritten notes, sketches, and content clipped from the web.

Need a little help to avoid procrastination?

The dreaded deadline is looming and you’re having a hard time resisting the lure of Facebook, YouTube, the BBC weather page (or whatever your procrastination thing is; mine is Radio Garden)? Desperate times call for drastic measures: Freedom makes it easy to block websites and apps, and it will even lock you out of the internet if you so wish.

P.S. if you need to quickly roll up the dozen-plus tabs you’ve opened while reading this post, OneTab is your friend. Whenever you find yourself with too many tabs open in Chrome or Firefox, click the OneTab icon to reduce all of them to a list of links on a single page (and save up to 95% in memory resources). When you need to access the tabs again, you can either restore them individually or all at once.