Wednesday, 3 October 2012
Thing 14: Zotero / Mendeley / CiteULike
Reference management systems are invaluable when you're writing essays or articles, and have probably saved me not only from incorrect referencing but also from accidental plagiarism! I only wish that, as a student, I had known there were so many alternatives available. During my undergrad degree the University had a subscription to Endnote, which to be honest completely baffled me. I don't know what it's like now, but I remember it being needlessly complicated and I was both too stupid and too proud to get myself to an information literacy session and learn how to use it. As a result, I of course needlessly and laboriously typed out every single reference one-by-one and wasted a lot of time that could have been better spent. By the time it came to the MSc I had learnt my lesson and a very useful session with the research methods librarian gave me a working knowledge of RefWorks. This definitely saved me a lot of time and mistakes but it still wasn't the easiest of tools to use. It may well have changed by now, but it was always a bit of a pain to log in to, as I had to remember the University's unique code.. and then when you did log in it wasn't exactly user friendly. It had one of those interfaces I've come to associate with incredibly useful databases: ugly looking and impenetrable at first glance, eventually becoming a mine of information only after lots of training; much losing of the will to live and a great deal of exclamations about the choice of font and graphics. It certainly did the job, but it was probably too good for my needs. What I really wanted was something simple with a user interface that didn't make me want to cry. CiteULike: I tried out CiteULike because it is the only one that doesn't require a download. As I'm sure I've mentioned many times before on this blog, anything that needs to be downloaded to the PC is pretty pointless at work as we all hot desk a lot so it would need to be installed on every PC. My first impressions are good - I like that you can just log in to the site and then post URLs but also that you can add a bookmarklet to your browser to make it quicker and easier. I am particularly a fan of the fact that you can copy articles from another user's library to your own. This could be really useful for collaborative working. I also think that it has applications in a public library. We get a lot of enquiries about certain topics and have been using either delicious or the favourites on our web browser to help us get to repeat information quickly. The problem with this is that we only add the homepage of websites due to the issue of changing URLs. Sometimes useful articles turn up in the most unlikely of places and so this isn't necessarily a good way to aid rediscovery at a later date. This would resolve this, and the article recommendations might come in useful too, although the nature of enquiries we receive may mean that the diversity of articles we choose to save throws CiteULike off the scent a little bit!