There are lots of tools out there for collecting scholarly information sources. I used EndNote when I was at Warwick, and then I exported and then imported the bibliographic data into Mendeley, for future reference. Zotero also has a good reputation amongst researchers I’ve met, although it seemed to me that EndNote’s Desktop version was the best at re-formatting your bibliographic data into the various styles for journal publication. So why use these tools and how do you choose which tool to use?
What these tools help you to do, is to be organised in storing information about:
- what you’ve searched for (keywords & filters applied)
- where (on which databases)
- and when (have I really not updated my knowledge on that theme since 2012?!)
You can also use them for storing documents and adding notes in/onto the documents that you’ve found, creating your own keyword and filing system. Moreover, you can set up groups, for sharing these documents with their keywords, notes and file structures. This is great for collaborative working!
And of course the other side of what they do, is to assist in creating and formatting references, adding them into your document through features that work with word processing software.
So, how do you know which tool to use? I’d want one that does all of the above, and if possible then I would choose the one supported by the Library at my institution as they can provide support and help. The downside of my approach may come when you leave the institution, and have to learn a new tool, however. If you want to check out more of these tools, then I recommend three essential steps:
- Look at the Wikipedia article on reference management tools: perhaps surprising advice, from a Librarian, but the tables offer a good overview of features of the many tools on the market.
- Ask your colleagues and collaborators what they use and what they recommend.
- Look at guides and support materials for the tool you are considering: do you like what you see?
Lastly, don’t forget good old paper and pen. Some years ago, I posted a slide on Slideshare with a template for recording a database search. It lacks a box for the date, but it shows one of the old fashioned ways to do some of this record-keeping, and it’s a nice, clean visualisation that might help you to develop and track search strategies.
Which tools do you like to use for your research? Leave us a comment below, get in touch directly or tweet with the hashtag #piirustips
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