Top 10 online tools for graduate students

Compiled by Graduate Ambassador Tracy Boyce, Department of Learning Design and Technology, Wayne State University College of Education.

As graduate students, we spend much of our time writing, reading, teaching, and conducting and presenting our research. There are many apps and tech tools we can use to help us work efficiently and effectively, whether we want to become better managers of our time, organizers of our ideas, or creators of engaging visuals. I have listed six tools I use regularly below. 

1. Canva for graphic design

Canva is a web-based graphic design tool that provides templates for posters, portfolios, presentations, infographics, and more. I use it regularly to create tables, diagrams, charts, and slides that help me present my research or work in a clear, visually appealing, and engaging way. The drag-and-drop interface is user-friendly, and it is easy to customize designs without previous design experience. Canva offers free and paid versions, and there are hundreds of tutorials available in Canva Design School

2. Delve for data analysis 

Delve is a qualitative data analysis tool. I used it to analyze the text in my interview transcripts and to identify key themes, concepts, and patterns within my data. It was intuitive and easy to use; I uploaded my transcripts, created an online coding book, highlighted and categorized passages, and viewed and downloaded information by themes. Delve also provides a free, seven-module video course. There is a free 14-day trial, and there is a discounted rate of $18/month per user for students, educators, and academics. 

3. Fantastical for time and task management

Fantastical is a calendar app that can help you manage your time and tasks. I like the fact that I can see my to-do list and schedule in one place. Fantastical integrates with other calendarsincluding Google Calendar, iCloud, and Outlookso I can view all my schedules in one place. Fantastical offers a 14-day free trial and is $4.75/month if you buy an annual subscription. 

4. for article summarization is an AI-powered productivity tool that you can use to help you with research and time management. can help you quickly search for, filter through, and summarize articles; this can help reduce the amount of time and effort it takes to digest long articles and identify the key ideas. There is a 14-day trial. An annual subscription to the academic version comes with a 40% discount; the Genei Basic account is about $5/month, and the Genei Pro account is about $20/month. 

5. Microsoft 365 for productivity

Microsoft 365 is a suite of software and tools that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other productivity applications that can help with academic writing, data analysis, and presentations. OneDrive provides cloud storage for easy access to files across multiple devices. Teams offers a platform for collaboration and communication with peers and professors. Wayne State University students have free access to Microsoft 365. 

6. MindNode for mind mapping

MindNode is a mind-mapping app that can help you visually organize and brainstorm ideas for your thesis, dissertation, presentations, or research articles. By creating a mind map, you can easily see the relationships between different concepts and ideas and quickly add or rearrange information as needed. MindNode might prove useful for brainstorming sessions or group projects because it allows for real-time collaboration. There is a free and plus version ($2.49/month or $19.99/year). 

7. for transcription and note taking is a transcription and note-taking tool. I use it to record lectures, meetings, interviews, ideas I get throughout the day, or any other spoken content and transcribe the audio into text that can be easily reviewed and edited. With its advanced AI-based technology, can recognize and differentiate between speakers, making it ideal for group discussions, interviews, and presentations. The basic account is free; students and educators can get a 20% discount on the Pro account. (Use my referral code to get one month of Otter Pro Lite, which allows you to try the Pro features.) 

8. PERRLA for APA or MLA formatting

PERRLA is software that can assist you with formatting papers in APA or MLA style. Its Word add-in allows you to create an outline, insert citations, and generate reference lists. It can also help you with tables, figures, and appendices. There is a free, 7-day trial as well as six month ($49.95) and annual ($79.95) subscriptions. 

9. Zoom for videoconferencing 

Zoom is a web conferencing and communication tool that provides a platform for remote learning and collaboration by allowing you to attend virtual meetings, seminars, and presentations. Zoom's screen sharing feature is useful for group discussions and presentations. I use Zoom to meet with my advisor, colleagues, and classmates; stay connected with my mentees; and conduct and record virtual interviews. I also use Zoom's features to generate transcripts from my interviews. Wayne State University students have free access to Zoom. 

10. Zotero for reference and citation management

Zotero is a free, open-source reference management tool that allows users to collect, organize, and cite sources for research papers, theses, and dissertations. You can save references from online databases and websites, create bibliographies in various citation styles, and share references with others. Zotero also offers a cloud storage option, which allows users to access their references from anywhere.  

Are there tech tools you use that you think should be on this list? Share them with me at  

Top 10 online tools for graduate students at a glance

App Purpose Free trial Cost
Canva Graphic design No Free basic account
Delve Text analysis 14 days $18/month per user for students, teachers, and academics
Fantastical Time and task management 14 days $4.75/month with annual subscription   Article summarization 14 days $5/month Genei basic; $20/month Genei Pro
Microsoft 365  Productivity software (e.g., word processing, analysis, presentation, note taking) No Free to Wayne State University students
MindNode   Mind mapping  No Free plan; MindNode Plus is $2.49/month or $19.99/year   Transcription and note taking No Free basic account; 20% student discount on Pro account
PERRLA   APA or MLA formatting 7 days $49.95 for a six-month subscription; $79.95 for an annual subscription
Zoom  Videoconferencing No Free to Wayne State University students
Zotero  Reference and citation management No Free open-source software