5 Lesser-Known Tech Tools for Researchers

Got a little time to explore new research tools? Here are a few that you may not have heard of before.

Find Related Books is a research tool from the American Society for Cybernetics. It’s basic but powerful: you paste in some text that is central to your work – a key paper, or an extract from a particularly relevant book – and the tool will identify related books from a variety of sources. Great for your early-stage literature search phase.

Mentimeter is an online presentation tool that is built for interaction. You design your presentation online; then on the day, audience members hook in to your presentation via their smartphones. You can ask them questions, conduct polls, run quizzes, and more – and they can respond in real-time. This can add a fresh new element to conference presentations or any presentation where you want audience input.

Sparrho is a curation tool that brings relevant research to you – think a modernised version of an RSS feed. It uses human experts and machine learning to create ‘digests’ and ‘pinboards’ that gather up the latest research on scientific topics. While this won’t replace your own diligent literature searching in your core research area, it is an easy way to stay up-to-date on fields or topics that are perhaps tangential to yours.

Padlet is a handy online collaboration tool that allows multiple people to brainstorm, share ideas, and post resources. It’s a bit like a bulletin board where you can invite contributions from a group. It’s popular with course teachers, but you can also use it for casual brainstorming sessions with lab partners, supervisors, or peer support groups.

Tableau Public is a sophisticated data visualisation and publishing tool that allows you to display your data in ways well beyond the limits of the ol’ Microsoft Excel chart tool. It’s particularly useful for creating interesting graphics for conference papers and posters. Be aware, though, that creating a free Tableau Public visualisation means sharing (i.e. publishing) the data. As with any research tool that involves publishing your data, you should check out their data policy, talk with your supervisors, and be sure that you stay within the limits of your ethics approval in the way you use and publish your data. Alternatively, you could upload only publicly-available data (e.g. census data) to create unique visualisations that contextualise your research without giving away your own data.

About Anaise Irvine

Dr Anaise Irvine is the Editor of Thesislink. She has a research background in science and narrative. Her PhD research analysed how contemporary films and novels represent genetic engineering as a social justice issue. She has previously researched fictional representations of evolution and quantum mechanics. She has taught such diverse texts as Blade Runner and Bridget Jones’s Diary, and her most obscure skill is being able to turn novels into phylogenetic trees!

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