When you use the best research tools for writers, your articles will stand out from all of the rest of the internet. I’m primarily a nonfiction writer, which means that I rely on tools to look up information.
I used to go to the library with my notepad, gather all my reference books, sit down at a desk, and find the answers to any questions I might have about the subject matter. While it’s not much different now by using online tools, being online allows me to go deeper than I could in the library. It’s time consuming to do deep research by hand, and by using online tools, I can quickly decide if I’m on the right path.
Best Research Tools for Writers
Google Scholar: An online search engine that allows users to look for scholarly literature. This includes articles, theses, books, and conference papers. While I don’t use this regularly, it does have a wealth of information that I can use to write my automotive articles like finding a book that gives me an overview of automotive sensors that I can quote.
JSTOR: A digital library for scholars, researchers, and students, providing access to thousands of academic journals, books, and primary sources from various disciplines. Once again, I can use this site to find information the differences between the Japanese and US Automotive sectors when it comes to inventory reduction and productivity growth, which I can use to write about our ongoing recovery from the pandemic.
Academia.edu and ResearchGate: Social networking sites where researchers can share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. Academia.edu allows you to download millions of PDF files on subjects like medieval history, ancient history, economics and more. ResearchGate connects you to the scientific community. These sites are out of my realm of expertise, but I do like history, so I am looking forward to getting lost in the Academia.edu rabbit hole.
PubMed: A free research database from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It’s useful for researching medical and health-related topics. While this is so far out of my area, it looks like it is a great place to find out information on clinical trials and citations.
ProQuest: A multidisciplinary research tool that offers access to a collection of databases with information on a variety of subjects. I found information on financial reports for AutoNation, fabrication of metal automotive parts, and press releases from automotive aftermarket services that are useful for my work with subscription based automotive services.
Organizing Your Research
Evernote: A note-taking app that can save your web research, allows you to make notes and clipping, and is searchable. I use the free version of this tool, and I have found it helpful when grabbing webpages as I was doing my preliminary research, so I could go back later and refine or discard the results. It’s less clicking than copying and pasting to my notepad or in the body of my word doc.
I love OneNote; it’s colorful, organized, structured, is fun to write in, and I have been using it for over 20 years. OneNote came in the Microsoft Office 2003, and I was hooked. I like that I can reference it across platforms from my tablet to the desktop to my phone and can jot notes or look things up no matter where I am. Pricing may vary on it, and you may be able to use it for free through Microsoft apps on your phone or tablet.
Notion is the same thing as OneNote, but it appears to be free. In a comparison that I read, the difference between the two pieces of software is not that big. However, Notion is less robust, but if you’re looking for a note taking piece of software, I recommend either one for their organizational tools if nothing else.
Citing Your Sources
Zotero: A free, open-source reference management software to manage bibliographic data and related research materials. This is a downloadable app for your desktop or Chrome app.
EndNote: A commercial reference management software package, used to manage bibliographies and references when writing essays and articles. This is a citation management piece of software that helps you organize your references. It has a free version, but you may want to buy the software.
Mendeley: A free reference manager and academic social network. Make your own fully searchable library in seconds, cite as you write, and read and annotate your PDFs on any device.
Writing Your Article
Hemingway Editor: This online tool helps simplify your writing. It grades your text on readability, identifies passive voice, and shows where you’re using adverbs or complex language that could be simplified. I use this off and on. I find it easy to use, but a bit of a pain. It’s rather clunky, but it’s accurate, so that’s a good thing. I offers suggestions on how to clean up your writing, and for my jobs, it helps me stay within an appropriate reading level.
Scrivener: This writing software is like a digital binder, enabling you to organize and rearrange your content easily. It has useful features for writers doing large amounts of research for their projects. I have used Scrivener since Stephen King told me to. Good enough for me. It’s a great organizational tool, and it has a lot of features that I will never use, so I use the ones I want. It keeps my books in order, and while I don’t always write in this, I do move them in there before I compile my manuscripts. This is an excerpt from a book I am working on that covers all of the scenic travel routes in the United States, so you can see why I need to stay organized.
Remember, different writers and researchers have different needs, so it’s important to find the tools that work for you!
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