Posted on June 9, 2012
Managing research: Your personal library, online
As a university professor, I not only teach — I also need to keep up-to-date with the literature in my field. This is so much easier now than it was when I was a graduate student long ago — now I can download PDFs of relevant articles and catalog them in folders on my hard drive, so they’re always available to me. Using Apple’s Preview program, I can highlight text in the PDF, so I never need to print anything (the trees of the world say thank you).
I’ve been using Zotero (free!) to manage citations for about three years now. My three favorite things about it are “Add item by identifier,” which lets me paste in only the DOI and (in most cases) instantly receive all the material needed for a complete reference list entry for the article; the ability to add multiple tags to any item; and the ability to generate a reference list of selected items in any format I choose (APA, Chicago, etc.). The last one is so awesome — I recommend it with the greatest enthusiasm! (Zotero does this really well.)
Today I found a recommendation for a different (also free) citation tool called Mendeley. Like Zotero, it links to the PDFs on your hard drive and exports reference lists.
Since I am already used to Zotero — which, by the way, has a standalone version, as well as browser plugins for Firefox, Chrome and Safari — I just read up on Mendeley and decided not to give it a test run. If you have not tried either one yet, here is some comparison information:
- Comparison chart from Mendeley: Compares EndNote, RefWorks, Zotero and Mendeley in a chart format.
- How do Mendeley and Zotero compare? A discussion by users of both, on Quora.
If you have been using EndNote or some other paid citation-management software, you can easily export all your saved cites into either Zotero or Mendeley.
Another tool I use to keep up with the latest scholarly publications is the free e-mail alerts provided by most of the communications journals (see, for example, Sage, which includes Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly; Routledge (Taylor & Francis); or Wiley sign-up pages for e-mail alerts). These are great because it only takes a minute to scan the list of contents in the email (one e-mail per journal issue), and each article includes a direct link, so you can download it immediately to save for reading later.
It’s easy to unsubscribe from any journal’s e-mail alerts; usually the unsubscribe information appears at the end of each e-mail.
Introducing these tools to new graduate students can help them get started with good research habits.