BrainWaves: The Neuroscience Graduate Program Newsletter

Using the AI tool Notion as a Graduate Student

Authors: Anna Marie Froude and Mahmoud Elsayed

As graduate students in the year 2023, we are very fortunate to have access to free artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as the infamous ChatGPT (OpenAI, 2023). Not only can AI resources help save us time (which is a very rare and precious luxury in grad school!), but they may allow us to expand our understanding and enhance our work within a matter of seconds. Navigating grad school can be very challenging. However, not everything has to be as challenging as it might seem, especially with the utilization of free AI tools.

Personally, when I think of AI use during grad school, I focus on its usefulness in helping to condense a wordy paragraph. However, there are many other applications of AI that extend beyond what I am familiar with. So, when conceiving this piece, I decided to reach out to Mahmoud Elsayed, a Neuroscience Ph.D. student here at McMaster to get his thoughts on the use of AI in grad school. Mahmoud had previously shared his love of the tool Notion with me, so reaching out to him was a no-brainer! 

The Use of Notion from the Perspective of a Ph.D. Student

Notion is an incredibly versatile tool that can help grad students to stay organized and productive. In fact, with the use of Notion, students can easily store all their notes, resources, and even their assignments in one place. As you can imagine, this type of software makes it much easier for students to stay on top of their work and avoid feelings of stress and burnout. Moreover, with the use of free tools such as Notion, students can create a flexible and customizable workspace that allows them to create and use a variety of templates. So, you can be organized in style! 


Notion also allows for easy collaboration with peers, as it makes it possible to create a shared workspace for group projects, with a commenting feature that eases the discussion of ideas and the provision of feedback. Students can also use the database feature to keep track of who is working on what and make sure everyone is on the same page. This tool also allows for the embedding of files and media, in addition to the creation of relational databases. But perhaps most relevant to this piece, is Notion's introduction of an AI feature that allows users to utilize a well-trained language model, much like the model utilized by ChatGPT (OpenAI, 2023), which can be used to facilitate academic writing. 

So, in short, Notion can help work as a ‘second brain’ and can help you stay organized and productive during your time in grad school. By setting up your workspace, keeping track of your assignments, organizing your notes, and collaborating with your peers, you can optimize your work and make the most of your time in grad school. So, give Notion a try and see how it can help you navigate the demanding life of a grad student!

If you are interested in checking out the great features that Notion  has to offer, click here

Although Notion is quite user-friendly, there are a number of tutorials that can be found online to show you how to use it; here is just one example of many!