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.
Thanks to everyone who posted comments on facebook, twitter and here. I got such useful information. It would seem that the majority of people who responded liked Zotero much more.
I also discovered that our University DOES actually support Zotero directly in the Library search results! Amazing! The University actually pointed me to this video on Zotero that shows you how to get data into Zotero.
Here is the article from the University of Stellenbosch Website:
ZOTERO: STEP BY STEP
In a PREVIOUS POST we introduced you to Zotero, a powerful referencing tool. This time around, we’ll show you how it works.
Zotero’s first ‘killer’ feature is the fact that it makes it much quicker and easier to accurately collectinformation about your sources. In most cases, you can grab all of the information required for a citation (e.g. title, date, publisher and place, in the case of a book) in a single click, while you are viewing the specific item on your preferred research/library website (e.g. Google Scholar, JSTOR, EBSCOHost). There are four ways to collect sources:
- Use the icon in the address bar. On most websites, Zotero will add an icon to the right-hand sideof the top address bar. When clicking that icon, Zotero will automagically grab the metadata of the item you’re currently viewing (e.g. a book on Google Books, a journal article on JSTOR, etc.) and create a new item in your library.
- Use your research/library website’s “Export” function. Most research websites will have an “Export” link somewhere on the page. Zotero will happily create a new item in your library when you click that link. This is especially handy when you’re viewing search results on a website like Google Scholar, because you’ll be able to add many sources very quickly (i.e. when you’re grouping everything that looks interesting to look at it at a later stage).
- Enter a book’s ISBN. If you work with printed books, you’re probably used to flipping to the front matter of the book and trying to decipher the fine print for details such as the publisher, place and year of publication. In this case, Zotero’s magic is particularly spectacular. Simply click the ‘magic wand’ tool in Zotero, enter the book’s ISBN and press ENTER. Nearly instantaneously, Zotero will contact a number of worldwide ISBN services, get the correct metadata for your book and create a new item in your library.
- Manually create a new item. In the very rare case that none of the above three methods is available, you can create a new item and enter its details by hand (read: keyboard).
CITING YOUR SOURCES AND GENERATING A BIBLIOGRAPHY
Once you’ve collected all of your sources in your Zotero library, you can start citing them in Microsoft Word (and OTHER WORD PROCESSOR) documents. This is Zotero’s second ‘killer’ feature: that it does all of the style formatting dirty work behind the screens. You simply position your cursor where you want to add a citation, go to the “Add-ins” tab in Word and click the “Insert Citation” icon. This will bring up an inviting, red-bordered textbox, in which you can type the title/author of your source(s). Pressing ENTER will add a neat citation in your preferred style. On that note: there are MORE THAN 6000 STYLES available for download from the Zotero website.
Many students will know the sinking feeling of having finished the actual writing of their paper/report/thesis, only to remember that the bibliography is still conspicuously absent. Here, Zotero’sthird ‘killer’ feature kicks in: it keeps track of what you’ve cited in your document and generates a complete bibliography, in your selected style, at the click of a button.