Writing a thesis may be the most rigorous thing you do during your academic journey. The good news? Because we are living in the digital age, many amazing tools and resources are literally at your fingertips. Here are five of our favorites.
If you’re like most graduate students, you’re probably drowning in paper. The struggle to keep this material organized within one streamlined and intelligible system can inhibit both your writing process and progress. Enter Docear. This unique literature management tool designed specifically for academics just might be your new best friend when it comes to discovering, organizing and ultimately creating academic literature.
Docear’s three-part solution comprises a single-section user-interface which lets you sort documents and annotations and simultaneously view multiple annotations of multiple documents; a “literature suite concept” containing a variety of tools -- from pdf management to mind mapping -- into a single application; and a recommender system which connects users with new literature tailored to their specific area of research.
The best part? Docear is free, open source, and available for a number of different platforms. One user described the tool as, “Exactly what I needed, incredible, really! Now I can have a clear global view of the literature and can work way faster than before. More of that, Docear is compatible with numerous other software. It’s an incredible timesaver.” Other words used in discussing Docear? “Genius,” “wonderful,” “extraordinary” and “revolutionary.”
We’re all familiar with some version of the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” SpellCheckPlus applies the same concept to the writing process. Rather than simply correcting your mistakes, it summarizes them into distinct categories. Available in a free version as well as in an upgraded “Pro” option which includes additional features. SpellCheckPlus offers feedback which not only improves your current project, but your writing and grammar at large.
In other words, SpellCheckPlus is no mere editing tool; rather, it’s a teaching tool. And as even the very best writers know, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to how you deliver your message.
Bibliographies are the bane of the existence of many a researcher. Now imagine a world in which generating citations and creating works cited pages was fully automated. Well, that world is completely in reach thanks to BibMe. Just select your choice of APA, MLA or Chicago/Turabian, search for your source from a database of millions, click “add,” and download when you’re finished. Voila! Building bibliographies has never been easier.
While the service provided by BibMe may sound priceless for academics mired by the intricacies of managing citations, this one-stop bibliography source is completely free.
Have you ever had that lightbulb moment when everything suddenly made perfect sense to you only to revisit the subject later and be unable to recall that train of thought? Writing a thesis can be a bit like following a mysterious white rabbit down a dark hole. You may end up in all kinds of mind-opening places, but keeping track of them and how they fit together can be overwhelming. Heralded for its intuitiveness and user-friendliness, MindMup acts as an online mind-mapping canvas perfect for representing ideas and concepts visually. Want to share your thoughts with others? MindMup is also a terrific collaborative tool.
5. iA Writer
Hailed by The Guardian as “beautiful and simple” and by The New York Times as “clever,” iA Writer provides a focused, writing-conducive environment free of “bells and whistles”-type distractions.
That’s not to say that this simple text editor lacks tools aimed at making the writing process both more enjoyable and efficient. In fact, iA Writer has been elegantly designed to do exactly that thanks to features like “focus mode,” version control, cloud support, and insightful metrics.
With clarity, an overarching requirement of all advanced writing, iA writer keeps the focus where it should be: on the text itself. It’s hardly a surprise that this “joyously simplistic” tool is the brainchild of two Swiss designers.
Just because your thesis is largely a solitary endeavor doesn’t mean you have to do it all on your own. These five tools can help improve your research and writing processes -- both for a better outcome as well as a more positive and productive experience along the way.
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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If you’re like most academics, you have many demands on your time. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of those demands could be made a bit easier?
Here are 6 useful software tools that can help make the writing process faster or help you better organize your notes and literature:
1. Dragon Naturally Speaking. This speech recognition software (available only in paid versions) allows you to dictate documents, search the web, dictate and send emails and more using only your voice.
2. Docear-The Academic Literature Suite. This free open source tool helps you organize, create and discover academic literature.
3. Evernote. This tool, which comes in a free version as well as an upgraded paid version, allows you to create text, photo and audio notes, clip web pages and synchronize your notes across your devices.
4. Research Writer by ActiveScholar. This research writing software (the company offers a free 30-day trial) is developed specifically for academic writers. It allows you to capture, maintain, and organize research information for journal articles, dissertations, theses, course papers, essays and books.
5. Citavi. This reference management software, available in free and paid versions, allows you to search resources worldwide, analyze and organize content, save quotations and thoughts, and more.
6. Mendeley. This free software tool allows you to search and sort your references, documents and notes in one place.
What software tools do you use? Please share them in the comments section.
Power Thesaurus. An easy-to-follow, crowdsourced online thesaurus. (shared by Nina).