Digital Tools for Research Management

With the vast array of digital sources of scholarly information—online databases, digital journals, electronic library sources, online articles, blog posts, etc.—you can easily lose track of what you have collected. And finding specific pieces of information and then being able to cite the source properly can add many non-productive hours to your research and writing. What to do?

There are now a couple of fairly good digital tools to help you organize and locate information, and they assist you with citation of sources. Mendeley is a free research management tool that allows you to organize materials, generate proper citations in Word and other applications, save/backup your papers and sources, share sources and papers, and collaborate with others. By creating a free account, you can download the application for Windows, Mac, or Linux platforms and store your material on their site in the cloud. That way, if your computer crashes or is stolen or lost, you won’t lose your research material.

Another tool, Zotero, is especially handy because it lives in your browser.

Zotero is the only research tool that automatically senses content, allowing you to add it to your personal library with a single click. Whether you’re searching for a preprint on arXiv.org, a journal article from JSTOR, a news story from the New York Times, or a book from your university library catalog, Zotero has you covered with support for thousands of sites.

Zotero collects all your research in a single, searchable interface. You can add PDFs, images, audio and video files, snapshots of web pages, and really anything else. Zotero automatically indexes the full-text content of your library, enabling you to find exactly what you’re looking for with just a few keystrokes.

Zotero also boasts mobile apps for when you’re on the go. Because of these conveniences, Zotero has become wildly popular. The following video explains Zotero’s many features; several additional features appear in updated versions.

Of course, when you use such a tool, you have fewer excuses for not keeping track and incorporating relevant information into your papers and exercises!

Have you already used such a tool? If so, which one? Which do you prefer? Do you know of others?

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About William Barnett

I am Director of Graduate Studies at Trinity College (Hartford, CT).

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