Writing Research Papers, Presentations and Blogs With Google Docs

The advent of cloud-based office suites like Google Docs, have changed the collaborative process of research writing.  Google Docs allows you and your collaborators to work on the same document at the same time.  No more sending versions of a document back and forth as each person works on a particular section, followed by a bunch of editing at the end to give the paper a cohesive voice.

Recently, Google added the “Research” tool to make reference management easier.  To get started, create a new document in Google Docs, and select Tools/Research.  A Research panel will appear to the right of your document as shown below.


A search field at the top of the panel lets you search for assets (images, articles from Google Scholar, posts from your Google + account, quotations and dictionary words) to include in your article.  In my case, I’m interested in adding citations on “pancreatic cancer genomics” to my paper, so I enter the search terms, select Google Scholar, and view the results.

As you hover over each search result, a link will appear that will take you to the original paper.  You can insert the paper as a footnote, or insert the citation at your current cursor location.  The citation can be formatted using MLA, APA, or Chicago Style formatting.  No support yet for other citation formats like ACS.  The only other fly in the ointment seems to be getting Google Docs to use end notes instead of footnotes.  Which limits its usefulness when writing papers for publication.

On the other hand you can use the Research tool in Google Docs presentations as well as papers.  Presentations will often include both a footnote at the bottom of a slide, if there is a quotation, or other citation on the slide, and the final slide will include the all of the References along with links to PubMed, or other websites.  You still have to go through all of your slides and collect all of the references manually.  It would be nice if all citations were tracked in the Google Docs Presentation, and automatically added to the final slide or to a designated “References” slide.

Lastly, I wanted to mention that you can use Google Docs to compose blog entries.  In fact, I often find it easier to use than WordPress’s editor.  Wordpress tries to provide similar functionality for finding useful additions (like images, and related articles) to blog postings but I often find the results too limiting, and the Research tool does a more comprehensive job of finding citations.


About Mark Fortner

I write software for scientists doing drug discovery and cancer research. I'm interested in Design Thinking, Agile Software Development, Web Components, Java, Javascript, Groovy, Grails, MongoDB, Firebase, microservices, the Semantic Web Drug Discovery and Cancer Biology.
This entry was posted in Bioinformatics, Informatics, Science Blogging and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Writing Research Papers, Presentations and Blogs With Google Docs

  1. You may like to read my article on “Making your research paper discoverable: Title plays the winning trick” available at


    Best wishes,
    Dr. M.Jagadesh Kumar, FNAE, FNASc, FIETE
    NXP(Philips)Chair Professor
    Dept. of Electrical Engineering
    Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi 110016

  2. Pingback: Tinkering with Paperpile | Aspen Biosciences Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s