Research Reference Management with Mendeley

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When starting my PHD a few years ago (2009) one of the first challenges I encountered was the problem around reference management. My original plan was to store all my references in a Word document, and to amend and edit the document as and when needed. However as the research expanded and my reading increased this quickly became unmanageable and unsustainable. Hence it became important to develop a reference management process. I looked at quite a few different tools but mainly Mendeley and endnote.

So in order to combat this problem I started to read around the subject of reference management to identify the best tool for this cumbersome job. Back in 2009/2010 one of the first tools on the market was endnote developed by Thomson Reuters. This was an acceptable solution for desktop PC’s and laptops, however as computing became more mobile based I needed a tool that allowed me to annotate PDF’s on my Ipad and allowed me to synch my work wirelessly across multiple devices. While this was possible via endnote it was a bit “finnicky” and “fiddly” and required the use of one or two additional apps (Dropbox, PDFAnnotate) to work properly. While trying to find an efficient way to do this I came across Mendeley.

What is Mendeley?

Mendeley is basically a reference management program which is available for your Smartphone or tablet (Iphone, Ipad, Android) and your Mac or Windows PC. Its power lies in it’s ability to synchronize your references across multiple devices without getting “locked” into one specific ecosystem.

How will Mendeley help me?

Mendeley is excellent for the avid researcher or busy academic who has hundreds of references and articles with no clear way to organise them. Mendeley has in my view six excellent features:

1) The ability to organise your references into specific folders and categories. Essential if your are working on a paper which requires you to manage multiple references.

2) It links directly into most major word processors (MS Word etc), hence you can cite as you type.

3) It allows you to change the style of your referencing within your word processor. Just think switching a whole article from APA 6 to Harvard or Chicago in one click ….

4) It synchronises all your work across all your devices so you can read, cite and work wherever you are. This also acts as a handy backup facility.

5) Allows for the import of citations directly from Google Scholar or a webpage.

6) For me this is where its real strength lies, it allows for in text/context citations. What does this mean? Mendeley has the power to search within your collected articles and documents if you have them downloaded this is in addition to tags, headers and abstracts and highlights keywords quickly for you to look at. This can save a lot of time if you want to search across multiple articles.

It also allows for the creation of shared groups but this I want to discuss in a separate blog article in the near future. All these advantages help the modern researcher to become as efficient as possible in writing articles, conference papers and general research.

How do I obtain Mendeley?

You can download Mendeley from the Website and the app from the Apple app store or Google play. Remember you will need to create an account before you can use the software in “anger”.

Good luck, and if you do get stuck or need any advice leave me a comment or get in touch via my institution webpage.


5 thoughts on “Research Reference Management with Mendeley”

    1. Hi Leo,

      Thank you for your comment. I have never really used Zotero in anger but during my research I found that it was mainly best used via a desktop PC. You can now get the Zotero iPad app but again not something i have used and going by the screenshots it hasn’t been updated for a while. I found Mendeley to be slightly more flexible across mobile devices in comparison to endnote but not really checked against Zotero. Thats a blog post for another day 🙂

      Academic Triangle


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