Free Digital Tools for Researchers

Published: Wednesday 5th November 2014
Category: Blog

Could you imagine doing research without internet? Digital tools have made research practices easier for scientists and librarians. Here we have gathered for you some digital resources to help you conduct research more efficiently and creatively. Read also our latest recommendations.

1. Social media

Facebook and Twitter are the most popular social media platforms and can be used to share information and network with colleagues. However, they are not a good fit for the academic sector. When it comes to connecting with the academic community, the following two platforms are specifically aimed to network with researchers around the world.

figshareWith Figshare you can connect with other researchers by uploading any file format to be made visualisable in the browser so that your figures, datasets, media, papers, posters, presentations and filesets can be disseminated. You can connect your account with your ORCID and have a unique identifier in the web. Mendeley is another option to connect with colleagues in your field. You can join different groups and share information. Join the Mendeley/Research4Life group to connect with researchers in developing countries.

2. Reference management

mendeleyReference management tools help scholars to create and manage their lists of references for research projects. Most tools are designed to organize citations into specific formats for the preparation of manuscripts and bibliographies.

Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research. You can create an academic profile, upload papers and publicize your research.

Zotero is a another free and open-source reference management software to manage bibliographic data and related research materials.

If you want to learn about how to install and use reference management tools, check our Training Section with different modules that include free-download tutorials for Mendeley and Zotero.

3. Image editing

SumopaintIf you need to edit images online without installing any software you can use SumoPaint. This photo editor and painting application works directly in your browser. You can open and save images from your hard drive or save it to cloud.

A downloadable option to install is GIMP. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. you can use it as a simple paint program, or for photo retouching, image renderer, format converter, etc.

4. Writing

write latexFor those familiar with LaTeX, writeLaTeX is a free service that lets you create, edit and share your scientific ideas online using LaTeX. There’s no software to install, so you can start writing and collaborating instantly. A nice feature is that every project you create has a secret link to send it to your co-authors, and they can review, comment and edit.

5. Visualizing data

Communicating results through images and graphics is crucial when working on a research paper, poster or for a conference presentation. Making use of digital tools for data visualization can make your research easier to understand.

gifflyWith Gliffy you can create flowcharts, diagrams, technical drawings and more. It works directly in your browser with the option to share your files with colleagues or save them in your cloud or local drive. It is simple and very easy to use. is another alternative for online diagramming but built for speed and simplicity. It features integration with a variety of collaborative platforms including Google Docs/Apps.

For specific types of graphs with text, try textexture. This interface allows you to visualize any text as a network. The resulting graph can be used to get a quick visual summary of the text you choose.

6. Organization

We all have quick notes, ideas and specific information to organize. As a researcher you can make your workflow more effective by using applications that help you organize your ideas and to-do’s.

A quick and easy online interface is Keep Google. Sticky notes that you can use to make lists and keep your important links and ideas.

trelloTrello is a web-based project management tool where you can organize projects in a dashboard view, containing one or more project-oriented boards. Useful for organized task management, delegation, communication, and collaboration across teams.

workflowyWorkFlowy is another organizational tool to collaborate on large team projects, take notes, write research papers or keep a journal.

Read also our latest recommendations.

About the author

Natalia Rodriguez

Natalia Rodriguez

Natalia Rodriguez is the Communications Coordinator for Research4Life. She works with different organisations finding innovative ways to communicate science and development.