Collecting, organizing and keeping track of those references is not always easy, especially when there is a long list and multiple research projects. I usually have two or three research projects going on, and always lose track of some really interesting document or article I read. A while back, I wrote about three useful research tools. Unfortunately, while those solutions cited sources, they don’t deal very well with organizing or sharing files, especially during collaborative research. Jeffry covered some cool techniques to share research files, but that approach is a little difficult to track and manage citations for those files.
Luckily, after quite a bit of digging and trying out a few applications, I’ve discovered a free application and research social network called Mendeley which does it all. With Mendeley, you have a desktop application linked with an online account. Together, they archive and organize your PDF documents, web pages, videos – anything at all that you want to use in your research, complete with full citations. As if that weren’t enough, Mendeley lets you create research groups which you can share your research with. It’s like a researcher’s dream come true.
Archiving Your Own PDF Library With Mendeley
In a lot of my own research, I dig through hundreds of old declassified government documents. When you come across a real gem, it isn’t always easy to store it and find it again later. However, once you download and install the Mendeley desktop app, you can install the optional web tool which gets added as a bookmark into your browser, called “Import to Mendeley.”
The process of saving PDF documents is surprisingly automated. Once you come across a PDF document that you want to make a copy of, just click Import to Mendeley. The first thing that will come up is the import tool. Keep in mind that initially the application only saves the citation, including the URL where you can download the file later if you want to.
Within the Mendeley Desktop app, your new cited source shows up in the center pane. I’ve created a special collection of resources for the Glomar Submarine research project by clicking on the “Create Collection” button. If you click on the “download” button next to the citation you just created, the software will download the PDF and archive it away on your hard drive so you can easily access it later. Some files are very large, so make sure you have the space if you plan to download a lot of PDF documents.
If you do plan to use Mendeley for organizing your PDF library of research, you can have the software automatically organize those downloads into a file structure based on year, title, journal name or author of the document. Additionally, the software can also automatically rename files to something you’ll remember. In my case I have all downloaded PDF files renamed to the year and title of the document.
You can share out any of the research projects you create to the entire Mendeley community. All you have to do is click on the research folder and then click on the “Settings” button. Then, change the setting for “Other people’s access” to “Public.”
Also note that if you Synchronize attached files, all of the PDFs will get uploaded to your online Mendeley account – and with 500 MB of storage, you could end up maxing out your profile pretty fast.
Additionally, you can share out specific research collections to only select contacts when you edit the settings of a shared collection. All you have to do is invite your colleagues via email. Once they join Mendeley (for free), they can collaborate with you on your research project.
It is also worth mentioning that Mendeley has a massive library of resources to begin with. Just browsing the existing collections will provide you with volumes of valuable information.
It’s also worth noting that Mendeley is also a thriving social network filled with researchers – many of whom are interested in the same research topics you are. Collaborating with other researchers – especially good researchers – can really go a long way toward achieving your own successful research project.
Mendeley can really boost your research into high gear by collecting references at the moment you discover them on the web, and providing you with a quick and easy way to go back and read those documents later. The software lets you “copy the citation” of any reference so you can use it in a Word document, email or anywhere else. You’ll never again forget the amazing information that you uncover. With Mendeley, your research, no matter how massive, really is right at your fingertips.
Have you every used Mendeley? How do you keep track of PDF documents and references to your other research? Do you know of any other tools that help with organizing? Share your insight in the comments section below.