Best Apps for Researchers and Graduate Students

Share this post:  
The purpose of today's post is to share with you this handpicked collection of some of the best  apps for researchers and graduate students. From taking notes on the go to recording and transcribing audio, these apps will definitely help enhance your overall productivity.


Apps for researchers



For practical purposes, I arranged the collection into a number of categories. There is some overlap between certain categories and some apps can be placed within different categories. Whenever possible, I provided both iOS and Android links. 

I. Note taking apps

The ability to instantly capture your ideas and jot down notes on the go is key to your work as a researcher. Creative and novel ideas pop up unexpectedly, and as you know, an undocumented idea is a lost idea. One way to ensure you capture those fleeting thoughts and to note down key takeaways is by using note taking apps. Here are some of my favourite picks:

  1. Evernote: 
Create and organize text and audio notes, clip web pages and articles. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price:  free, offers in-app purchases.
  2. Notion
Create notes, docs, and tasks. Collaborate in real-time. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price:  free, offers in-app purchases.
 3. OneNote
Write memos, create digital sketchbooks, and save notes. Collaborate together in a shared notepad. Compatibility: iPhone/iPadAndroid. Price:  free, offers in-app purchases.
 4. Bear
Write, sketch, or draw notes. Clip web pages and capture images and text. Compatibility:  iPhone/iPad. Price:  free, offers in-app purchases.
 5. GoodNotes
Type or handwrite notes. Annotate documents. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: Offers in-app purchases.
 6. Notability
Annotate documents, create notes, record audio notes. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.


Apps for researchers



2. PDF annotating apps

Effective and deep reading requires an active interaction with the read material. As a researcher or research student, you will have the chance to read piles of academic materials and unless you develop a good reading habit which involves the use of annotations, you won't probably make the best of your reading experience. 

The power of annotating practice is that it allows you to engage with text at a deeper level which enhances your reading comprehension and boosts your retention rate. If you like to do your readings on mobile devices, these PDF editing apps are definitely worth considering:  

1. Foxit
Annotate PDFs, convert PDFs to Office docs, combine & edit PDFs, fill out forms, sign PDFs. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
2. Small PDF
Compress, edit, merge, and sign PDFs. Convert Word/ ppt/ JPG/ Excel/ to PDF.Compatibility: iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
3. Fill PDF Editor
Sign or request signature, convert word/image to PDF, edit & annotate PDFs.  Compatibility : iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
4. LiquidText
Annotate PDFs, pull excerpts from docs, add notes. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
5. PDF Expert
Annotate PDFs, fill forms, create notes, convert files to PDF or vice versa, sign PDFs. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
6. Notability
Annotate documents, create notes, record audio notes. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.


3. Cloud storage apps

Cloud storage is a wonderful invention and one of the blessings of modern technology. It has saved my academic life countless times. Imagine the panic you would feel to know you have just irretrievably deleted a draft chapter of your doctoral dissertation. Imagine as well the joy and relief you would feel to realize that a copy of the supposedly lost chapter is miraculously stored on Google Drive. That was me when I was working on my doctoral dissertation.

A rule of thumb, always make sure you have copies of your documents and other important materials saved in a safe cloud storage platform so you can access them anywhere with Internet connection. I know there are always risks of theft and privacy issues but the cloud storage platforms below offer maximum security and I personally never had any issues with them. 


Cloud storage apps



1. Google Drive
Save and access files anywhere including offline, file sharing. Compatibility:  iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
2. Dropbox
Upload and save content to the cloud, send large files, scan documents,  Compatibility:  iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
3. OneDrive
Backup your files, file sharing, mark up and sign docs, file sharing. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
4. Box
Save content, take notes, record audio, scan and upload content.  Compatibility:  iPhone/iPad / AndroidPrice: free, offers in-app purchases.


4. Bookmarking apps

The web is packed full of all types of resources and you probably come across tons of these resources in your daily browsing. Some of these materials are just so important that bookmarking them becomes a necessity. Whether it's a web page, a PDF, a video, an image, or anything else published online and is of importance to your work as a researcher, make sure you have a way to save it for later reference. 

Here are some of the best bookmarking apps you can use on your mobile device to save and access your favourite online resources.

1. Flipboard
Curate web content, follow other curators, create magazines out of curated content. Compatibility:  iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price: free.
2. Feedly
Follow and curate your favourite web content, share insights with collaborators. Compatibility:  iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
3. Instapaper
Save and read articles online or offline, distraction-free reading, annotation, text-to-speech. Compatibility:  iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
4. Pocket
Save web content, customize display, listen to articles. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.


5. Document scanner apps

Scanning paperwork is something you will often have recourse to during your research work. The apps below will help you scan various forms of documents on the go and save scanned materials in PDF or image files. 

1. Microsoft Lens
Scan printed or handwritten text, save as PDF/image, Word, or PPT. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price: free.
2. CamScanner
Scan documents & photos, scan QR codes, PDF converter, add e-signature on docs. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad/ Android. Price: free + in-app purchases.
3. Small PDF
Compress, edit, merge, and sign PDFs. Convert Word/ ppt/ JPG/ Excel/ to PDF. Compatibility: iPhone/iPadAndroid. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
4. Evernote Scannable
Scan different documents, export scans in PDF or JPG. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free.


6. Dictionary apps

A dictionary is an indispensable tool in your research toolkit. It will help enhance your reading comprehension and refine your writing style. Here are some of the best dictionary apps to keep handy:

1. Merriam-Webster
Dictionary and thesaurus, example sentences, audio pronunciation, voice search. Compatibility iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
2. Dictionary
Dictionary, thesaurus, offline access, idioms, slang, translation, medical dictionary. Compatibility iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
3. Power Thesaurus
Synonyms, antonyms, word pronunciation, favourites and tags. Compatibility iPhone/iPad. Price: free.


7. Academic research networking apps

A huge part of academic life is about research networking. Getting to meet  fellow researchers from all around the world, discover their work, share experiences, and build research connections and collaborations. 


Research networking apps


My favourite platforms for research networking are researchGate, Academia, and LinkedIn. All of these platforms have mobile apps allowing you to access and connect with a worldwide community of researchers anywhere, anytime.

1. ResearchGate
Connect with researchers, discover research in your field, get research updates. Compatibility iPhone/iPad. Price: free.
2. Academia
Search for academic research, connect with researchers, see who mentioned your in their research. Compatibility iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
3. LinkedIn
Find and connect to researchers, see their research updates, share articles, job search. Compatibility iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.


8. Focus enhancing apps

Doing research, as is the case with any other productive activity, requires sustained periods of focus and concentration. Unfortunately, the world of digitality does not lend itself easily to this kind of focus, or what Cal Newport  called Deep Work

However, (and ironically enough) technology does offer solutions. There are various online and mobile applications that can help you develop focus and achieve more everyday. Some of my the best focus enhancing apps I recommend for researchers include:

1. Flora- Green Focus 
Monitor phone usage, build positive habits, clear to-do lists. Compatibility iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
2. Forest Focus
Control phone usage, overcome phone addiction, plant seeds in Forest.  Compatibility iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
3. Freedom
Block distractions, break bad habits, block apps and websites, focus sounds, locked mode. Compatibility iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
4. Pomodoro
Focus timer, track progress, white noise sounds, customizable settings. Compatibility iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
5. Focus Keeper
Task management, track productivity, adjustable timer, focus reminder. Compatibility iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
 

9. Task management and to-do list apps

Besides enhancing focus, which I talked about earlier, your productivity can benefit a lot from having effective task management strategies in place. Juggling aimlessly among unfinished tasks and not being able to clearly articulate your research and academic priorities can decrease from the overall quality of your work. 


Task management apps


Creating to-do lists, setting reminders for important deadlines, strategic planning, effective tasks management are all practices (and skills) that you need to incorporate into your daily routine. And yes there are apps to help you do so. Consider the following:

1. Google Tasks
Create and edit tasks, set due dates, organize and manage tasks. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free.
2. Things 3
Create to-dos, set reminders, calendar integration, mail to Things, quick find. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases
3. TickTick
To-do lists and task management, reminders, calendar integration, upload attachments to tasks. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
4. MinimaList
Focus timer, task management, reminders, calendar syncing. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
5. Microsoft To Do
Create to-do lists, add notes, sync lists, set reminders,  manage tasks. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free.
6. Todoist
Create tasks, plan your day, set reminders, organize lists, collaborate with others. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.


10. Apps for e-Signing Docs

Distant education is becoming a huge part of today's education. From webinars to online conferences, so much of our work as researchers and educators is done online. With that being the case, we often find ourselves in situations where we need to remotely sign paperwork or request signature from others. Hence the importance of e-signature apps below. These are apps that enable you to fill in forms and sign documents electronically. 

1. DocuSign: 
Sign documents, create your own signature, see when documents signed, check signing status, support multiple signers. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
2. Signeasy 
Sign documents, send documents for signature, works with any document format, draw or import your signature. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
3. Smallpdf
Compress, edit, merge, and sign PDFs. Convert Word/ ppt/ JPG/ Excel/ to PDF.Compatibility: iPhone/iPadAndroid. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.


11. Voice transcription apps

As a researcher, you get to work with multiple forms of data including audio transcribed data, that is, data you extract from audio or video content. Indeed, transcription is an arduous and time-consuming activity, but there are apps that make the whole process as simple as clicking on a button to automatically generate transcriptions. 

Of course, machine transcription is not 100% accurate and you always need to double check the accuracy of the final output. Some of  the best transcription apps for researchers include:

1. Otter
Record and transcribe audio in real-time, live captioning, highlight key points. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad and Android / Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
2. Voice to Text Pro: 
Convert speech to text, create notes, transcribe external audio files. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad / Price: free, offers in-app purchases
3. Rev Voice Recorder: Record audio, order human transcripts/ automated transcripts, trim recordings. Compatibility: iPhone/iPadAndroid / Price: free, offers in-app purchases.


transcription apps




12. Audio recording apps

As a researcher, you need to have a reliable audio recording app installed on your mobile device. Whether you want to record an audio note, a lecture, or a meeting, audio recording apps will definitely help enhance your productivity. Some of my favourite audio recording apps include:

1. Voice Memos
Record with built-in mic, edit recordings, organize into folders. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free
    2. Voice Record Pro
    Unlimited recording, supports different audio formats, export/import audio. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.
      3. Easy Voice Recorder
      Record audio, transcribe recordings, share recordings with others. Compatibility: iPhone/iPad. Price: free, offers in-app purchases.