The use of software for research can help streamline methods, keep the researcher organized, and improve in the quality of the research. While the list below is not a complete list, the list contains enough software to aid any doctoral student through their research endeavors. The software listed below are recommended from a "doctoral student" viewpoint. Software titles italicized are the programs I use. Logo

If you work for a university or an institution of higher education, check with your organization's bookstore or technology department before purchasing any software. Institutions often offer free or heavily discounted academic software available for purchase for their faculty and staff.

Another great source for software is (, a legitimate website that offers students and faculty at partnered schools free and discounted academic software. Use the school finder page to see if your school participates in this program.

File Storage & Backup

File storage and backup is a critical step in protecting your data in the event of a system failure (such as hard drive) or file corruption. Do not store your data in just one location. Instead, keep copies in at least two locations so that in the event one of the backups become corrupted or damaged, you have a second source. The last thing you want to happen is that you lose critical data during your doctoral program!

There is a difference between file storage and backing up data. These two differences are discussed below. It is recommended you employ both options.

Cloud-based File Storage:

A nice benefit of using cloud-based file storage is the ability to access your data securely from anywhere you have an Internet connection. This allows you to work "on the go" without maintaining multiple copies on different computers, carrying external devices like flash drives, or keeping handwritten notes that you will use later to update your files. These services work by syncing your data in their cloud so that you have access to the most updated files.

  • Dropbox ( - 2GB free with option to pay for additional storage.

  • Google Drive ( - free with the option to pay for additional storage. Although you can store Microsoft documents (such as Word and PowerPoint files), the preferred document type is Google Docs.

  • Microsoft OneDrive ( - 5GB free with the option to pay for additional storage ($2.00/monthly for 100GB of data). With an e-mail address (also free), you can edit Word, Excel, and other Microsoft documents directly from the browser. This is a great option when editing files on a public computer as you do not have to save any files directly to the computer.

File Backup:

Unlike cloud-based file storage services, a backup service is not intended to serve as a storage location where you edit your files directly. Instead, backup services will back up and keep multiple versions of your data so that you can restore in the event of lost or corrupted files. When backing up your files, you also want to make sure you back up any data from programs, such as Atlas.ti, SPSS, EndNote library, etc.


Effective note-taking is a fundamental part of being successful in any program. As you progress through a doctoral program, you will collect a lot of information that will contribute to your body of knowledge and later help you as you progress through your dissertation. Collecting, organizing, and retrieving this information later in the program is critical. Thus, great effective note-taking starts on day one. Picking the best method for note-taking from the start will allow you to build a repository of information that help you later in the program and even after you graduate (I often refer back to class notes). It does not matter which software you pick -- the key is to have a structured and organized process in which to store your notes.

  • Evernote ( - Free for basic use; $ for premium but provides a 50% discount for students (~$48 per year after discount). Beware that the free version has limited storage space. A downside to this software is that if you stop paying for the premium service, you will not be able to access your notes later.

  • Google Keep ( - Free with a Gmail account. Does not have a desktop application and is very basic in comparison to Evernote and Google Keep.

  • Microsoft OneNote ( - Free. A great feature is the web clipper ( that allows you to "clip" and import various types of information directly from the Internet, such as articles, PDFs, even videos.

Word Processor

Although there are alternatives to Microsoft Word, it is highly recommended that students use Microsoft Word for their word processor. Being the most popular word process on the market, reference managers and other add-on softwares (such as Grammarly) are compatible with Word. Additionally, as students, you will be sharing documents with your faculty and other students and using a the same program will avoid compatibility issues. TIP: Checkout for a free copy of Microsoft Office Suite.

Reference Managers

Reference managers aid in the electronic management, organization, citation, and referencing of articles and documents. While this process can be managed manually, dealing with a large number of references can be overwhelming and increases the chances of mistakes.

Grammar, Punctuation and Plagiarism Checker

  • Grammarly ( - Free for basic; Google for 50% off coupons as the company is always offering discounts off their premium subscription.

  • Scribbr Plagiarism Check ( - Up to $40 per document, depending on the number of words. Although Grammarly has a built in plagiarism checker, I recommend another source. In the course of writing a dissertation, you may forget to cite the author, or even worse, you directly quote from another source without knowing that the author had plagiarized from another paper (yes, this happened to me!).

Presentation Software

Presenting research or other scholarly material is a common

Screening Software

Screening software aids a researcher in reviewing large number of articles to determine if those articles meet the inclusion criteria for the study. While this can be performed manually, screen software streamlines the process while documenting the decision making process.

Qualitative Data Analysis

Qualitative Data Analysis is the process in which a researcher examines information (such as scholarly articles, interviews, surveys) to identify patterns and themes to answer a research question. This process is referred to as "qualitative coding."

Quantitative Data Analysis

Quantitative Data Analysis is the process of analyzing numerical data, such as through descriptive data or inferential statistics.

Collaboration & Video Conferencing

A successful doctoral student is one that collaborates with their peers and their faculty. The use of collaboration tools makes the ability to share files, hold virtual meetings, and exchange ideas easier.

Screen and Audio Recording

Charts, Graphs and Workflow Creators


Misc. Software