Thursday, 4 March 2010

Identifying Off- and On-line referencing tools used by researchers

Having spent the first few days, settling into the University Library and planning the timeline of my research, today I have started my research by identifying and compiling a database of current off- and on-line opportunities that assist early-career researchers in managing literature (information resources and particularly referencing tools). One of my aims is to assess the current usage rates of these different opportunities and identity particular advantages and disadvantages expressed by researchers who have used these different software options.

I decided to begin my search on Graduate Junction as I thought it would be a useful place to start. Part of my research will also be to look at the role of social/academic networks as not only a place to connect with others based on research interests, but as a place were researchers can share knowledge and experiences of more practical or generic skills, such as information searching and handling. Therefore this morning I was really excited to find an example of this on Graduate Junction in the form of a thread in the advice forums discussing managing literature . It’s provided a great starting point for my research as well as providing a great example about the role of networks in sharing experiences.

I personally used EndNote for my dissertation as this was already installed on my computer when I got it. I therefore didn’t really shop around at the time or evaluate the advantages or disadvantages of other opportunities. As it was also installed I didn’t think about the cost. I found it very intuitive to use but did find it a problem when I went to the university computing room or library and used other computers as I could obviously not access my library. I know that many universities provide researchers with a free EndNote, or sometimes Refworks, account attached to their university IT account. This has the advantage that you can log into any university computer and access your account, overcoming the problem I experienced. However, I am also under the impression that when you graduate and you lose your university IT account you also lose your subscription to this tool. Does anyone know whether you can then transfer your library to your own account or do you lose this?

I have also heard a lot about Zotero (open source) and I know that Dan Cohen of George Mason University, is coming to give the second Arcadia Lecture in Cambridge in April, which I am very much looking forward to.

It would be great if people could continue this discussion thread and share their personal experiences or thoughts.


Jason said...

RefWorks provides free access for life even after students graduate or professors/staff otherwise leave the university as long as the school continues to subscribe. This "alumni program" is included with any academic subscription.

You can also backup your RefWorks data and restore it under a different account (either through another school or an individual account that can be purchased for an annual fee). And you can also export to text in several different formats. So there are some different options here that allow you to keep your data if you move on.

Full Disclosure: I am a training specialist employed by RefWorks-COS.

John said...

I never liked Endnote but find that I use Zotero a lot, mainly because it integrates so nicely into my work-flow, which mainly involves working online. The most valuable recent development is that it enables one to back-up one's reference library into a site in the cloud, and to sync it with the library on every computer one uses. In fact, it's become so useful that it's essentially locked me into Firefox.

Keren Mills said...

Esther, have you seen Mendelay? Like Zotero and Cite-U-Like it is a free online Bibliographic Management tool, with some social networking aspects to it. You can easily share folders of references, and people can subscribe to your references. I think for anyone collaborating on a research project or simply wanting to share practice with researchers with similar interest it has the potential to be a great tool.