Let’s be honest … despite being told by teachers and lecturers not to use Wikipedia as it is not a credible source of information, I think most of us have found it to be an extremely useful site full of way more accurate information than we are led to believe. Personally, I think it is one of the best websites to use for background information, or for first-stage research into a particular topic. For example, my research is focused on fluorescence spectroscopy. The Wikipedia page for this topic is quite a short read, but by the end of it you should have quite a clear understanding of what fluorescence spectroscopy is. So, Wikipedia is a great place to begin!

The opening paragraph of most Wikipedia pages is very concise, allowing you to find information very quickly and easily. I have found this to be particularly useful when coming across terms in academic papers that I am not familiar with. Wikipedia allows me to gain an understanding of the term, giving me more information than a dictionary would, but without consuming huge amounts of my time.

However, considering that Wikipedia can be edited by just about anyone, it is of course always wise to check references to see where the information has been sourced from and if it is reputable.


Out of all the image sharing sites out there, I think Instagram is a personal favourite. This is most likely due to the fact that I have had a personal Instagram account for years, so I am very familiar with the platform.

Since starting my PhD, I have followed many PhD related accounts. These range from individual student’s accounts who are sharing their PhD journey through images, to accounts that share tips and advice for research. I find these pages to be particularly helpful when I’m feeling a bit worried or down about my research. Everyone’s going to struggle with writing from time to time or feel like they haven’t done enough reading, and these pages make me realise that everyone’s in the same boat, as well as being very motivational.

Following other students on Instagram has definitely inspired to set up my own professional account to share my PhD journey. However, considering that I am pretty much just working on my literature review at the moment, I think I’ll save this for a bit later down the line when I start doing some field/lab work etc. Otherwise, it will just be picture after picture of me reading academic papers or procrastinating from writing, which I don’t think will inspire many people!

When it comes to other image sharing sites like Flickr and Pinterest, I haven’t really had much experience. I may have a look on these sites from time to time for a bit of inspiration but I don’t think I’ll be setting up my own account. Consistently sharing and looking for images on more than one site will probably end up consuming too much of my time, so I think I’ll stick solely to Instagram for now at least.


Presentations can be a great way to absorb a lot of information very quickly, or to share your research with others in a clear and concise manner. I might find a good presentation on sites like SlideShare from time to time that will help me understand some concepts that I am having difficulty grasping, but as a PhD student, I find presentations on university/research centre websites to be much more useful. I find that these sites have presentations (e.g. university lectures) that are better suited to a higher level of study, and also have presentations on research that may be relevant to my field.

Podcasts are something that I have tried to listen to in the past, but have never really gotten into. I don’t tend to find podcasts very informative, and by the end feel as though I’ve spent an hour consuming about 5 minutes worth of information. However, many people love and recommend them so perhaps I’ll give them another go. They could potentially be great things to listen to in ‘dead’ time, while waiting for the bus for example.


One of the first pieces of advice I received before starting my PhD was to start using reference management software straightaway. In fact, this is a piece of advice that almost every PhD student that I have spoken to has given me, and it’s obvious why!

I actually started using reference management software from the first day of my PhD, and I regret not using it for my undergraduate thesis as it has proven to be an invaluable tool. It allows me to import, edit, categorise and export references, as well as annotate the PDFs associated with those references.

There are many great pieces of software out there such as RefWorks, Zotero and Mendeley (a particular favourite amongst PGRs). However, I settled on EndNote for no other reason than it being the software that my supervisors use. Personally, I would say that this is the best way to decide upon which tool you are going to use as it means that you and your supervisors can easily share your reference libraries (my supervisor sent me one of his libraries at the beginning of my PhD meaning that I didn’t have to start my literature search from scratch!).

Considering that I am currently working on my literature review, I have hundreds of references that need to be managed. Importing any paper that looks relevant into EndNote as soon as I find it has been very useful as it means that I’m not wasting my time trying to relocate a paper online. I could talk about how amazing EndNote is for days, but here are just a few of the features that I have found to be particularly useful:

  • Groups: EndNote allows you to group references into categories. I have found it useful to sort my papers into categories of ‘important’ and ‘wider reading’ to allow me to focus my reading and prioritise my time on the more relevant literature. I’ll then further categorise the ‘important’ literature into specific topics to help me locate papers more easily.
  • Rating system: EndNote allows you to rate papers in your bibliography via a star-based rating system. So, if I think a paper is very well written, if it has been cited in many journals, and if I think the authors’ conclusions are believable, I might give it 5 stars. On the other hand, if I read a paper and it doesn’t seem like the conclusions are based on solid evidence, I’ll give it a low rating. This allows me to pick out the good from the bad at a glance which can come in very handy.
EndNote allows you to save, organise, group and rank your references.
  • Annotating PDFs: Another great thing about EndNote is that it allows me to highlight and add notes to the PDFs that are associated with the references. I love this feature as it means that I don’t have to use another piece of software to do this, everything is all in one place which just makes things that little bit easier!
EndNote allows you to annotate and comment on the PDFs associated with your references.
  • Export references and format bibliographies: EndNote allows you to export references into a document and automatically generates the bibliography. It also allows you to format and reformat the bibliography to your desired style. So if you realise half way through writing up an academic paper that you’ve be using the wrong style of referencing, you can instantly reformat everything – gone are the day where you have to spend hours painstakingly editing every single reference!
EndNote automatically generates your bibliography.

The only downside of EndNote is that, unlike software like Mendeley, it is not free. My office at the British Geological Survey does have a license for the software so this is not an issue for me. However, it is obviously something that others needs to consider when choosing their software.

As I progress through my PhD, I’m hoping that my knowledge of EndNote will develop as I’m sure there are some useful aspects of the tool that I am not yet familiar with!


Research networking tools like ResearchGate, and Google Scholar are great at allowing researchers to share their publications, discuss ideas, and easily find relevant literature in their field. Each of these tools have their own advantages. However, as a scientific researcher, ResearchGate would have to be my top pick.

I originally set up my ResearchGate account whilst undertaking my undergraduate degree with the sole purpose of being able to access papers that I would not have been able to otherwise access. Since starting my PhD, this aspect of ResearchGate has become even more useful for me, allowing me to easily find research that is relevant to my field. By following authors who conduct similar research to mine, it is easy for me to see when they publish new papers, allowing me to keep up to date with the advances in my field.

ResearchGate also has a questions and answers section which can be very useful. If there are any specific areas of your research that you are having trouble understanding, this section is a great way of connecting with specialists who may be able to clear things up for you!

Considering that I am not very far into my PhD, my ResearchGate profile is currently very empty. I’m hoping this will change soon though when I start to publish papers. I think it’s particularly important for me to share my research through ResearchGate as my profile is one of the first things that appeared when I googled myself. Hence, I think this could be one of the better ways to get my research noticed.

If anyone is interested in my research into the use of fluorescence spectroscopy in drinking water applications, please feel free to take a look at my profile (click here) and follow me!


When I googled myself, I found that the majority of hits on the first page were actually associated with me! My ResearchGate, Facebook, LinkedIn and personal Instagram pages all appeared, along with a StageClip from my Masters graduation.

While I am happy that both my ResearchGate and LinkedIn profiles appeared within the first few hits, I’d love it if my professional Twitter and Instagram were more easily found. Whereas my ResearchGate and LinkedIn profiles are solely professional, my Twitter and Instagram let some of my personality shine through, and I think this is important to engage people and get my research noticed.

Having looked at my social media accounts, I’ve realised that I should be trying to keep a consistent presence on them and make sure that they are always up to date. Not only will this allow me to better present my research with others, but it will help me keep on track with new developments that other researchers are making in my field.


For me, and I suspect many others, my relationship with social media has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. One day, I’ll find myself inspired by all the beautiful content that social media allows us to create, or basking in the huge amounts of information that social media allows us to share. The next, I might find myself sinking down the inevitable self-destructing hole of comparison, wasting precious hours of my time as I wonder why I’m not “as beautiful as her” or as “successful as him”. As a result, I am finding myself wanting to detach from social media more and more as the days go by.

However, I realise that social media, if used in moderation, can be a fantastic aid to PhD studies. Thus, since starting my PhD in October, I have really tried to focus on the positive side of social media. I know that it can be a place to connect with others, a place to learn about new developments in your field, or a place to share information about your research. However, personally, I’m not really sure where to begin …

Despite having an up-to-date LinkedIn account, setting up a professional Twitter, and creating an Instagram page to document my PhD journey, my use of social media in a professional capacity has been very limited. I have yet to put up my first tweet or my first post on Instagram, and I have struggled in finding other PhD students to connect with who are carrying out research in my field.

I am hoping that the “23 Things for Research” course will enable me to get the best out of social media, and show me how to use it in a way that will benefit my studies. I would love to be able to connect with others in my field, and hope that I will be able to engage a wider audience in my research.