Cookies and Privacy

The University uses cookies on this website to provide the best experience possible including delivering personalised content on this website, other websites and social media. By continuing to use the site you agree to this, or your can go to our cookie policy to learn more and manage your settings.

5 best free productivity apps for research students

Completing a research degree is less like a 9 to 5 job and more like a 5 to 9 one. With the high workload and other life commitments it’s important you have all the help you need to boost your productivity and ensure you can carve some time out for yourself.

Take control of your studies with five of the best free productivity apps for research students.

Productivity apps for PhD students

1) Save time referencing with Mendeley

Staring at a mile long reference list is enough to give even the most seasoned researchers a headache, so be sure to avoid bibliographic burnout with Mendeley.

This free reference manager automatically generates bibliographies as you write and even helps you find papers relevant to your subject, meaning you can spend more time writing and less time referencing.

2) Stay off your phone with Forest

Forest gamifies your focus by rewarding 25 minute intervals of uninterrupted work with your own virtual tree. Stay focused on your work for longer periods and you’ll be able to grow a whole forest.

It’s a simple incentive that stops you from hoping onto social media via your phone and increases productivity. If you leave the Forest app, the tree you were growing starts again from a seedling, resetting your progress.

If that’s not enough, growing trees will reward you with virtual coins which can be spent to plant real trees through charity group Trees for the Future.

3) Save your distractions for later with Pocket

Endless open browser tabs are the guilty secret of every researcher, but can make your actual work much harder to navigate. Say goodbye to your endless labyrinth of open webpages with the free productivity app, Pocket.

Pocket is a browser plugin which stores and catalogues everything you want to read, whether it’s an important paper for your next thesis chapter or a review of a film you’ve been dying to see.

The tool makes your life easier by allowing you to focus on what’s important right now and keeps your workspace clean and focused.

4) Get past your writer's block with 750 Words

Despite all the planning and data you’ve compiled throughout your research, starting to write your thesis or next chapter can still be a daunting prospect.

750 Words is a tool designed to get you free-writing. Just write 750 words a day and commit to writing without editing, allowing you to get your thoughts down on paper and clear your head.

This type of writing is often unusable, but can sometimes contain useable gems and get you in the right mindset to write that first paragraph.

5) Keep on top of your tasks with Trello

As a researcher, there’s a good chance you’re keeping lots of balls in the air. To keep track of all your jobs (both-PhD related or otherwise) it’s a good idea to find a task management app that works for you.

There are many free apps out there, but Trello is perhaps one of the most visual and user-friendly.

The tool allows you to create work boards and fill them with tasks, assign deadlines, make updates and so much more. You can also share your board with collaborators or supervisors to make team working easier.

Earning your research degree is never an easy feat but COVID-19 has most likely added new obstacles on the path to your doctorate. While you’re downloading some of these great productivity apps, why not check out our top ten tips for working from home and how we’re supporting our students during lockdown.

Research phds blog

Thinking about a PhD?

Take a look at our PhD courses and become an expert in your field.

View courses