The world of academia can be a little behind the world of technology, but by using just a few of these apps, your thesis can be helped along immeasurably. Don’t install them all at once—it can get a bit overwhelming—but test out a couple and see what sticks. All apps listed are free to use.
The Research Phase
This tool is great for the research and reading phase of your thesis process, particularly if you’re reading a lot of online sources. You can save web pages to your Instapaper account, where it will be turned into an easy-to-read format that you can read at a later point. You can keep an archive of the useful articles for future reference, and you can even set your account up to automatically send up to 10 articles a day to a Kindle or smartphone (with the free Instapaper app installed).
If you often find yourself with 20 tabs open in your browser, OneTab is for you. A simple Chrome extension (if you’re not already using Google Chrome, it’s worth upgrading your browser), with one click it will collapse all your tabs into a single, easy-to-read window, where you can close unwanted tabs and save others for later.
The Drafting Phase
Another Chrome extension, Momentum does a few simple things very well. Each day, you enter your main focus or task. Each time you open a new tab that day, you’re reminded of your main focus and given a different stunning photograph. The idea is that it stops you from typing ‘www.facebook.com’ on autopilot and keeps you on track with your goals. It also tells you the time, the weather and has a space where you can enter and tick off your to-do list.
An app that many people find indispensable is Evernote. It syncs across your devices, so you can update it from your phone and reread your notes later on the computer. You can easily save audio, web pages, notes and images with a clear layout: far easier than using scraps of paper.
Ever need an overview of where you’re at with all your tasks and projects? Trello is for you. A project management app, Trello allows you to create a project and designate stages within the project. You create drag and drop cards for your tasks and move them through different columns as they reach different phases of the project. So for instance, you can make each chapter of your thesis a project, and each section within it an individual card; you can even attach the document. You can then track each section’s movement from ‘not written’ to ‘draft’ to ‘send to supervisor’. You can also give your supervisor access to the Trello board.
The Writing Phase
The Pomodoro Technique
Pomodoro is not so much an app as a way of being (but there’s an app as well). It’s a very simple way of keeping you focused and getting yourself really productive. You just set a timer for a 25-minute session of work. That’s it. The timer goes off after the time and you get a short break (five minutes). After four pomodoros, you get a long break (10 minutes). You’ll be amazed at just how much you can get done in 25 minutes, and how amazing your focus is when you know you’re on a deadline, even if it’s self-imposed.
If this then that (IFTTT)
IFTTT, as web aficionados like to call it, is the big daddy that makes all of these apps run in perfect harmony. It’s about the closest we muggles can get to achieving actual magic. The way it works is a user syncs their accounts (Google Drive, Gmail, Evernote, Dropbox, Trello, calendar, social media accounts—even your phone) and then creates a ‘recipe’ or puts an existing recipe in action. A recipe consists of a ‘trigger’ event that causes another thing to happen of its own accord. For instance, you could create a prompt at the end of each day to email yourself the draft of your thesis. You could then set up a recipe that will send that draft to Dropbox, so that you have it backed up in two places. If your parents call while you’re mid-flow, you can organise IFTTT to text back to them, promising to call later.