Tools for a PhD student

Currently I am setting up the main study of my PhD thesis and this leads me to reflecting about my own daily routines that I am following and I am also re-thinking the tools I am using and if they still support me in the best way possible. I’d be really interested in hearing what other people use, although everybody needs to figure out what works best for her. So the most important tools that I am using to organize my PhD Life are Teuxdeux, Evernote, Pocket, and Mendeley.

Teuxdeux is the simplest yet most flexible to-do list. I use it to keep track of all my immediate action items as well as things that I need to follow-up. I have tried using Trello, which looks great and offers a lot of possibilities to keep track of tasks, but I am simply overwhelmed by the number of features and prefer the clean and simple structure of Teuxdeux, which totally serves my needs.


My Teuxdeux list for next week. 

Evernote is an online notebook, where I collect and organize ideas, notes, meeting minutes, etc. It is a collection of everything that I need to immediately remember or refine and work on later. It consists of mostly text notes, but I also use it with pictures, screenshots, pdf files, and sometimes even videos or audio notes. I organize everything in folders rather than using the built-in tag functionality.


My Evernote set-up

Pocket is an online bookmarking service, where I quickly bookmark websites or articles that I found and that I do not have time to read yet. I try to go through my pocket list every week and catch up on my reading but I have to admit that sometimes I get a bit lazy on that. I have the browser plugin installed on all my devices to quickly save articles.

For organizing scientific literature, Mendeley, is the tool that I have been using most. I keep all the papers that I have read and that I need to read in there, and it is an invaluable tool for writing papers, citing publications, and building a list of references.  I use the “notes” functionality, highlights and annotations to keep track of my thoughts but sometimes I feel the need to organize them further and to keep all these loose ends and random thoughts together. This is why I have tried out Citavi, which allows to organize all the annotations, which I find a supersmart feature. However, the big drawback with Citavi is that it does not run on a Mac and that it is not immediately usable on multiple devices. I use Mendeley on my work PC, home PC, Macbook, iPad, iPhone and therefore, even though Citavi looks really interesting, if it does not run on multiple devices, it is not usable for me.


My Mendeley set-up

In order to compensate for the missing feature, I build a separate set of folders in Mendeley. Usually I organize my files in folders that are sorted by topic. For any paper project I am working on I now build a separate folder structure (“Knowledge”) – one folder for each of the research questions or topics that I am working on, similar to what categories would be in Citavi. In these folders I organize the files that I annotated for this topic, so I can search through these notes in a more straightforward fashion. After a paperwork is finished I use tags to mark the papers that I used as references in a certain papers, but then I can delete these “knowledge”-folders, since I have all the publications still available in my

I really like to peek into the work routines of others, for example in this video Morgan explains how she uses Scrivener, Dropbox, and Evernote. I have to say, Scrivener looks pretty interesting to me and is probably worth a try.

So any more tips and tricks are very welcome, in particular from other researchers and PhD students – How do you organize your research and what tools do you use for this?

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