Organize Your Research With These Free Web Tools

How to stay organized when researching and writing papers

Filing system illustration

Organizing research is important not only for your own sanity but because when it comes time to unfold the data and put it to use, you want the process to go as smoothly as possible. This is where research organizers come in.

There are lots of free web-based organizers that you can use for any purpose. Maybe you're collecting interviews for a news story, digging up newspaper archives for a history project, or writing a research paper over a science topic. Research organizers are also helpful for staying productive and preparing for tests.

Regardless of the topic, when you have multiple sources of information and lots to comb through later, optimizing your workflow with a research organizer is important.

Many of these tools provide unique features, so you might decide to use multiple resources simultaneously in whatever way suits your particular needs.

Research and Study

You need a place to gather the information you're finding. To avoid a cluttered space when collecting and organizing data, you can use a tool dedicated to research.

  • Pocket: Save web pages to your online account to reference them again later. It's much tidier than bookmarks and your saved information can be retrieved from the web or the Pocket mobile app.
  • Mendeley: Organize papers and references and generate citations and bibliographies.
  • Quizlet: Free online flashcards for learning vocabulary.
  • Wikipedia: Find information on millions of different topics.
  • Yahoo Answers: A question and answer website where you can ask the community for help on any question. 
  • SparkNotes: Free online study guides on a wide variety of subjects, anything from famous literary works of the past century to present day. 
  • Zotero: Collect, manage, and cite your research sources. Lets you organize research data into collections and even search through them by adding tags to every source. The program itself is for your computer but there's a web browser extension for Firefox and Chrome that helps you send data to the desktop program.
  • Google Scholar: A simple way to search for scholarly literature on any subject you can think of.
  • Diigo: Collect, share, and interact with information from anywhere on the web. It's all easily accessible through the browser extension and saved to your online account.
  • OttoBib: Make a bibliography for your research papers by entering the book's ISBN number.

Writing Tools

Writing is the other half of a research paper, so you need somewhere useful to go to jot down notes, record information you might use in the final paper, create drafts, track sources, and finalize the paper.

  • Web Page Sticky Notes: For Chrome users, this extension lets you place yellow sticky notes on any web page as you do your research. There are tons of settings you can customize, they're backed up to your Google Drive account, and they're visible not only on each page you created them on but also on a single page from the extension's settings.
  • Google Docs or Word Online: These are online word processors where you can write the entire research paper, organize lists, paste URLs, store off-hand notes, and more.
  • Google Keep: Catalog notes within labels that make sense for your research, and access them from the web on any computer or from your mobile device. It supports collaborations, custom colors, images, drawings, and reminders.
  • Yahoo Notepad: If you use Yahoo Mail, the notes area of your account is a great place to store text-based notes for easy recall when you need them.