I attended a lecture yesterday on digital libraries, and got to thinking that there must be a better way to manage the mountain of research papers I’ve been collecting in Dropbox, since I started my degree about a year ago. I will be the first to admit – I print out all assigned research articles (given it’s a hell of a lot easier than reading them on a screen), but only actually keep my electronic copies. I profusely apologize to any hippies who just understood how much paper I’ve wasted (erm, recycled) throughout my university career. After a bit of searching (while swearing off Zotero and complaining about the lack of awesome applications like papers, for Windows or Linux), I came across a pretty neat program called Mendeley (not to be confused with the infamous Vandelay Industries). Mendeley is an application that does a bunch of things (Mac, Windows and Linux supported), but it’s primary use is the organization of digital documents. It allows you to store and tag research articles you may have collected from around the web, indexing both the titles and full text itself, which is really useful should you ever try and find that article on “the death of print media”, where it isn’t explicitly mentioned in the title.
One of the really awesome features of this app is the ability for it to generate APA citations for you, for your documents of interest. No longer will you have to flip back and fourth ten times, across your APA guide, to ensure you’ve properly cited a work. Mendeley supports over 50 citation styles, including APA, MLA, AMA and IEEE. The program pulls the citation information directly from your PDF document of choice. Based on my sample of 160ish documents, the citing feature actually works rather well. Here’s an example of the mostly well thought out UI:
While working on thoroughly exciting literature reviews, you can actually drag and drop citations in your text editor of choice (Open Office, MS Word, Google Docs, etc.). No more worrying about removing extra spaces.
They also provide a plugin, which allows you to pull articles directly into your Mendeley database (using a bookmarklet). Useful if you source stuff from Google Scholar (I do, mostly to get around a variety of horrible third party vendor database tools, when on the school VPN).
Admittedly, I’ve only played around with the program for about an hour (an hour I should have been working on a thoroughly exciting open source integrated library system selection report), but what the hey, I still feel like I’m being remotely productive. The program also allows you to collaborate with colleagues, sharing relevant documents, though I don’t really have a use for this feature presently. You can also browse trends online, allowing you to see the most read / popular subject areas and documents, browsing user tagged subjects or collection name (information retrieval for example), should you choose.
If you manage a large number of research articles, give this a look.
Swimming in research papers at a wifi hotspot near you,