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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
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Tuesday
Jun032014

Zotero or Mendeley? Which academic citation manager is better?

There is a well known saying among academics the world over, Publish or Perish.

It is true! In the academic world the publication of research is critical to one's career - I like to see it in a less 'survival' directed framework.  Namely, that I want to publish my research because I believe it serves the world and helps the Church and Christians in their task of making the world more just, beautiful and blessed.  Perhaps I am being a little idealistic?

Regardless, I try to publish a book over other year or so, and I also try to get about three scholarly articles in peer reviewed journals each year.  When you consider the work that it takes to do that while still teaching undergraduate and postgraduate classes, as well as supervising multiple Masters and PhD students, you can imagine that I need a pretty efficient system to keep a record of what I am reading, and easily get that information into my books and academic articles.

For some years I have been using Zotero as a citation manager.  It is a great tool since it is open source, it works really well on the Mac and PC, and it stores your reference database (books, articles, documents, web pages, videos, interviews etc.) in the 'cloud'.  It also has plug ins for Microsoft Word (on the PC and the Mac), and also for open source word processing software.  It is really easy to use!

However, I have been frustrated by two things.  First, it does not have an iOS client for use on my iPhone and iPad.  I often only travel with my iPad and when I have a few spare moments it would be great to be able to catch up on the latest journal articles and books and add them to my citation index for later use.  Alas, that cannot be done.  I have to wait until I am back at my Mac, fire up my web browser, either find the article or book on Google Scholar, Amazon, or Google books, and then add the source automatically.  Or worse still, if it is an older or lesser known source I have to add it manually.

My second frustration is that Zotero is not supported by the University of Stellenbosch Library system (I am a faculty member at Stellenbosch University).  This means I often search for titles in the library, and once I have found them there I have to search for them a second time (on Amazon, Google Books, Google Scholar, Gale etc.) to be add the reference to my library.

One of our library staff suggested I try Mendeley.  It is also a free piece of citation management software.  It also works on the Mac and PC (and Linux), and as a bonus it also has an iOS client! So that is great.  However, it is not opensource - that always worries me a little.  Often it means that if there is a problem, or the owners no longer make money from the software or loose interest in it your data could get 'stuck' in an outdated piece of software.  Opensource solutions tend to updated more quickly and over a longer period of time since it is the users who drive that process.

Still, it is worth checking out since it is tied into our University library system (a huge bonus that will cut at least one significant step out of my Zotero workflow).  Moreover, the University has some sort of agreement with Mendeley that allows faculty to have more space for storing references on online copies of PDF's and articles (Zotero charges for extra space).  It also works well with the Mac and has a lovely interface, and as I mentioned above it also has an iOS client.

Here is a little video from Portland State University that does a good job of comparing Zotero and Mendeley

Do you use citation management software?  I know many folks find the learning curve too steep and have stuck to manually entering every citation! My goodness, I simply don't have time or patience (or enough of an eye for detail) to do that well.

If you do use citation software what do you use and why?  If you use either Zotero or Mendeley I would love to hear your reasons for choosing one over the other, and any tips you may have to help me maximise my use of the software.

References (31)

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    [...]Zotero or Mendeley? Which academic citation manager is better? - BLOG - Dion Forster - An uncommon path[...]
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    Zotero or Mendeley? Which academic citation manager is better? - BLOG - Dion Forster - An uncommon path
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    Zotero or Mendeley? Which academic citation manager is better? - BLOG - Dion Forster - An uncommon path
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    Zotero or Mendeley? Which academic citation manager is better? - BLOG - Dion Forster - An uncommon path
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    Zotero or Mendeley? Which academic citation manager is better? - BLOG - Dion Forster - An uncommon path
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    Zotero or Mendeley? Which academic citation manager is better? - BLOG - Dion Forster - An uncommon path
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    Zotero or Mendeley? Which academic citation manager is better? - BLOG - Dion Forster - An uncommon path
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    Zotero or Mendeley? Which academic citation manager is better? - BLOG - Dion Forster - An uncommon path

Reader Comments (2)

Hi Dion

Great piece, and thanks for posting. I tried using Mendeley for my Ph.D. (which is nearing completion) and found it easy to use. However, I use the Harvard convention and felt that Mendeley could do with more fields to accommodate some of the variants in referencing detailed in our university's Harvard referencing guide (University of Hertfordshire).

In the end, I went back and redrafted my references manually. More than 30 pages of them, but I did not want to present my examiners with errors on something as simple (albeit tedious) as referencing.

I have come to the conclusion that manual referencing is now something that I can do quickly and easily. I guess I'll live with it.

Cheers

John

June 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Malamatenios

Thanks for the comment John. I would love to hear more about your research. If you have written about it, or published anything towards it please send me a link. Thanks!

With regards to references, I also always do a manual check of my references (particularly the the bibliography) before sending off an article or manuscript. However, I must say that I find Zotero so helpful with sources that I use frequently (particularly if a Journal uses Chicago and the whole reference needs to be repeated in footnotes). It is just so easy to insert a reference in MS Word! Of course it is also great to capture all (or even most) of the citation data from a web page.

By the way, I got the following very helpful response from @adam42smith: @digitaldion where doesn't @zotero work with Stellenbosch? Lib catalog (Primo) works fine. 2 free iOS apps: @ZotPad and @papershipapp

I think I need to give Zotero another go - I know it well and it is open source. If I can get it working with Lib catalog and find a good iOS app I will stick with it.

June 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDion Forster

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