As a researcher, your day is undoubtedly filled with a busy combination of tasks: conducting interviews, reading white papers, discussing with peers, and writing. You are probably also drinking a lot of coffee.

Luckily there are a wide range of productivity tools to help you get through the day. Too many, in fact, to analyse with your schedule.

So, for once, we’ve done the research for you! Here we offer up our recommendation of the best online tools for researchers.

Google Scholar: For Conducting Secondary Research

One of the most important stages in the research process is the collection of data. The challenge in today’s content heavy world is finding quality resources.  Here is where Google Scholar comes in.

Google Scholar in an academic online search engine. It specifically searches scholarly literature, journals, white papers, and scientific articles much in the same way that you search a library’s catalog and database. It also searches the best known databases, including university repositories.

Whilst it isn’t a comprehensive database, it is a convenient starting place. It also has some nifty functions.

With Google Scholar, you can create search libraries for specific research topics and save any search results into those libraries. You can also set up alerts to let you know when new research papers on your topic have been published. Google Scholar also provides automatic citations for each research that appears. All you have to do is click on the quote icon below each resource and a pop-up window appears with citation variations for that particular paper based on common style guides such as APA, Harvard, MLA, etc. This makes it easy for you to copy and paste into your research paper.

Moreover, Google Scholar has features like a ‘Related Articles’ button, which pulls up additional resources related to the search result you just selected. Additionally there is an advanced search feature allowing you to search during a specific time period, according to a specific author, or exclusively from specific academic databases.

Survey Monkey: For Conducting Primary Research

In most cases, researchers also need to collect some sort of primary research. For conducting questionnaires and surveys, Survey Monkey is an excellent option.

One feature that makes Survey Monkey so popular is that it includes a suggested bank of questions and answers, garnered from actual surveys.  This is useful for those individuals that struggle with what to put in a survey or how to formulate the Q&As.

Survey Monkey’s extremely popular free tier, offers unlimited surveys of up to 10 questions that can be delivered to up to 100 respondents. For more extensive research, you can purchase the Standard package which costs $35 per month.  This package gives you unlimited questions per survey, custom feedback, customisable colours, insertion of logos, and data export.

Happy Scribe: For Transcription of Audio to Text

Let’s face it, conducting research interviews is time-consuming enough. Do you really want to waste additional hours converting that audio to text just to so see if there was anything useful in that interview to use in your research paper?

No, I didn’t think so.

Using an automatic transcription service provider like Happy Scribe is definitely the way to go. Whilst it will take you around 4 hours to manually transcribe one hour of audio to text, Happy Scribe can convert an hour of audio to text in a matter of minutes.  

Additional benefits of converting audio to text include an easier way to analzye information and a better way to see data connections between interviewees.

Mega: For Cloud Storage

Making sure that your research paper and data are secure and regularly backed up is another essential component for any researcher.

Many researchers advise keeping 3 copies of all important files in three different locations such as a local disk drive, a portable storage device, and cloud storage. For cloud storage, one of the most important features for any researcher should be security.  Whilst, DropBox is widely popular, it isn’t the best for storing sensitive data.  

A better option is a cloud storage provider like Mega.  Mega claims that all of its data stored in its cloud is encrypted on your device before it reaches their servers. Beyond security, it offers 50GB of free storage, which is pretty generous. Additionally if you are collaborating on a research project, Mega provides a platform to have audio/video calls with end-to-end encrypted chat.  You can also share your files and exchange messages.

With availability across Windows, Mac, and Linux, Mega is a great option to automatically backup your computer data and your phone photos and videos.

Scribbr: Plagiarism Detection Software

We all know that deliberately copying and pasting huge chunks of someone else’s work and inserting it into our own research document - as your own idea - is a big no-no, and comes with severe penalties if you are a researcher.

But what about the greyer area of paraphrasing, when you read a piece of research and put it into your own words? Well, this is still seen as plagiarism and should be avoided.

To make sure that what you write doesn't appear as paraphrasing someone else’s work, it is advised you use plagiarism detection software to check your research piece before submitting it.

There are plenty of online tools available that can help you scan your text with perviously published materials and check for overlap. However, the one regularly cited as the best is for researchers is Scribbr.

Scribbr compares your document to over 60 billion web pages and 30 million publications, more than any other plagiarism checker out there. It also goes beyond identifying sentences exactly the same as the original source to detecting where the sentence structure was only mildly altered using synonyms and additional words.  

It also provides a clear, colour-coded report showing you the percentage of plagiarism and list the sources of the plagiarism. The downside is that it is not free and will cost you between $18 and $40 per document to check.


What are your favorite online tools to help with your workflow as a researcher? Let us know!