Whether it's a proposal, research paper, or a dissertation, we - scientists - need to spend an awful amount of time writing. There are free tools out there that will make the process of writing faster, easier, and more enjoyable!
In our previous productivity blogs, we have shared our top tools to be more productive and how to improve your e-mail habits toward saving more time. Today, we share with you some of our favourite "free" tools we always rely on to even save more time especially while writing.
1. Get relevant literature using "Connected Papers"
Connected Papers is a free visual tool made to help researchers find papers relevant to their field of work. It allows us to discover the most important prior and derivative work in our area of interest. Like this, it's highly unlikely that we miss anything especially in the constant production of large volume of papers. The tool is simple, and intuitive to use. Simply, enter the "origin" paper and then the tool will generate a visual graph that pulls out papers on similar topics. You can, then, explore the clusters on the graph and see all the details of the linked papers.
For example, in the graph shown below, you can see the origin paper is demarcated in red. Each node is a related paper, node size is the number of citations. Colour is the publication year; the lines and proximity represent similarity. Connected papers provide a very handy tool that complements traditional database discovery using keywords and citation links. And it's, especially, helpful when you want to save time in the literature review phase before writing.
2. Voice typing
No matter how fast-typers we are, we can not outperform the "dictation" option in almost all writing softwares. Using "speech-to-text" will save you a lot of time. Such option is a real game-changer recording our thoughts down as we think of them out loud! Here's how to initiate dictation on Microsoft word.
3. Reference management
If you add the time it takes to find, organize and add citations, you’re looking at an incredible amount of work. Submitting a paper to a journal is already time-consuming. Reformatting the references to suit the journal is even more so. While reformatting a reference to match a journal’s preferences may only take five seconds per citation, but that accumulates fast. And we -scientists- can’t afford to waste any time doing that. Luckily, we have very efficient reference management softwares to help like Endnote, and Mendeley. But, after using many of these softwares, we prefer Zotero, and highly recommend it for the following reasons:
Free open-source. All features are available for free, and not limited to some basic features like in some other commercial softwares.
Quick and easy organizer for your research. With Zotero connector plugin on your web browser, you can add books, articles, webpages, and even download entire PDF files to whatever Zotero folder you created for each project you are working on.
Sync across devices. There's a cloud-based option where you can save your items in an online library that will be synced automatically across all devices you have Zotero on.
Share libraries with others. You can easily share your resources with collaborators. You can create different collaborator groups, and you can even make these groups private or public.
Cite like a pro. You can have Zotero add-in to almost all word processors including: Google Docs, and Microsoft word. Also, in Zotero's style manager there's almost 10,000 different citation styles from which you can choose.
If you would like to kickstart your journey with managing your references using Zotero, here's a quick helpful guide for that.
Finally, we are surrounded by free tools that are designed specifically to make us more efficient in what we do. These tools helped us save a lot of time whenever we had to write. We, also, hope that they will help you save time for every academic challenge you will face. Share your experience down below. We will be happy to hear you out.
See you next week!