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Katie Fraser's blog and website

I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.

My interests include the application of emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.

You can find out more about more about me from the links to the left. Note that the views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other individual or organisation.

CPD23 Thing 14: Referencing Software

August 29th, 2011

Mendeley screenshot

My publications in Mendeley

This blog is part of 23 Things for Professional Development, a course encouraging information professionals to explore online tools.

Thing 14 is referencing tools, and we’ve been specifically encouraged to try the free tools Zotero, Mendeley and CiteULike. I’ve had varying degrees of experience with these different tools, as an ex-researcher and academic librarian. Zotero, I tried when it first came out, but didn’t really take to managing my references in my browser. I watched a video about the updates it’s had, and it’s still not really appealing to me. CiteULike, well, I use it for collections of references occasionally, but find it a little basic in its referencing functionality for ‘proper’ writing. I have a personal and a work account, but I don’t really exploit its social networking features very much.

For my day-to-day referencing needs I use Endnote, having started with this during my early PhD (in about 2003/4) and stuck with it since. I’ve usually been a student or a member of staff at one academic institution or another which supported Endnote since then, so I’ve never been forced to explore free alternatives in any depth.

However, in the spirit of trying new things, I decided to give Mendeley a go. I’ve seen this in action in sessions at work, but I’ve never experimented with it myself in any depth. I’m actually revisiting a past project currently, so I had a genuine purpose for using it (which I’ve found really helps you get to grips with a referencing system) and you can import your Endnote Library into it, so it allowed me to build on what I already had. Here’s my main thoughts:

  • The pdf import (drag and drop into the Mendeley interface) is a really great function. It doesn’t always work perfectly, though, and I found one of my own publications in the online catalogue in a massively inaccurate format.
  • If you have any publications, then you can ‘claim’ them, which is a function that I really like (CiteULike lets you do something similar).
  • As a copyright-aware librarian type I really liked that I could use the desktop version to organise my pdfs locally, but didn’t have to share these online.
  • There’s an active Mendeley userbase in my institution, so I found brilliant instructions from an academic and one of our library systems team on setting it up to search our electronic holdings.
  • It looks much slicker than Endnote, and works much more smoothly; even despite Endnote 15’s recent addition of pdf annotation, it makes Endnote look clunky.
  • Like so many of the free tools described in CPD23, I can’t actually use the desktop tool at work, as it requires local software installation, and I don’t have the rights.
  • I’ve heard that it’s reliability isn’t always brilliant, which makes me a bit nervous. Reliability is something that I really want from a referencing solution (even if it’s something I never really get!)
All in all, so far I love Mendeley. I’m going to stick with it for the time being and test its Word plug-in thoroughly before I decide whether to keep it for life, but I can actually see this replacing my beloved Endnote.

One Response to “CPD23 Thing 14: Referencing Software”

  1. […] Mendeley is the tool I’ve really picked up and ran with out of the ones I tried in the programme. However, I’ll also admit that I’ve been back to and started using Evernote since I purchased an Apple-branded tablet device in the autumn: the synchronisation has suddenly become a lot more valuable to me. […]

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