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How do you organize your references?

  1. Jul 31, 2009 #1
    It's thesis season and I'm beginning the head ache of trying to get all of my hundreds of references organized. I'm finding that this is taking a serious amount of time not to mention being a major pain. Is there some software or something that is available to aid with these kind of things or any tricks that anyone knows to make this a little easier. Right now I just keep everything in an array of folders and its not working out to well.
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  3. Jul 31, 2009 #2


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    I've heard good things about the software "papers". Of course, it's for apple so you're not going to like that, but I imagine there are similar programmes available for windows/linux.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2009
  4. Jul 31, 2009 #3


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    Some of my friends are using EndNote - that's for Windows. It might be worth a try - I think my university even has a license for it, so you could check at your school. I just went with BibTex - if I cite it it shows up, if I don't it doesn't. But it can be a pain trying to figure out which one was for what.
  5. Aug 1, 2009 #4


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    Jabref is good; multi-platform too:

    Much like Papers. There's also an ability to embed your BiBTeX, abstract, etc. inside the PDF copies of your papers (Good if they're old and non-indexable (and even if they are). It's fully BiBTeX compatible, so you can just export selected references, or your entire database and pick and choose references.
  6. Aug 1, 2009 #5
    If you have your own web-space you could set up your own personal wiki. They can sometimes be really good for sorting out and storing these kinds of things. Also good for collaborative work where you may need input from other people conveniently.

    Would lack many of the functions of some of the above programs but it can also be quite a nice way to collaborate with people.
  7. Aug 1, 2009 #6


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    Be very, very careful on this front... The PDF papers we academics produce, read, publish and send each other, etc. are all copyright, and you may run into problems if you have these publicly available (I think you can share your own papers, but that's about it).

    I remember a case where some guy wrote a script that you could use to download his reading list of 50 something papers (this was at an institution with academic access) and he got in trouble with whoever the provider was for this (broke terms of service about automated / mass retrieval).

    EDIT: That's probably where authenticated access, and intranets come in handy.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2009
  8. Aug 1, 2009 #7
    True enough! It can still be used to link to the journal/arxiv articles as required. Good point though.
  9. Aug 1, 2009 #8


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    If you use Firefox, there's an add on called Zotero that allows you, with a single click of the mouse, to retrieve bibliographical data from any papers you read on the web. It's very useful if you have a computer at home and a computer at lab and need to synch your references between them. Plus, you can export to EndNote or BibTex for when you need to write a paper and share your references with others who might not use Zotero.
  10. Aug 1, 2009 #9

    Andy Resnick

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    I also use EndNote, it's very good but can be a little clumsy to use.
  11. Nov 2, 2009 #10
    Adding to an old discussion, but there's also Mendeley (www.mendeley.com) to try as a reference manager. First of all it's free - unlike Endnote - and it's compatible with all browsers and all operating systems - PC, Mac and Linux

    I'm one of Mendeley's team so please post or send me a message if you have any questions
  12. Nov 11, 2009 #11

    Maybe you should make a new post about it. I was looking over the website and it sounds like an interesting program that seems to be (from my impression of the website) geared toward social networking more than reference managing. How would the reference managing features compare to, for example, EndNote, which I find competent but very clumsy and sometimes unstable?
  13. Nov 11, 2009 #12


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    I use EndNote too, and haven't found it clumsy or unstable, but I use it on Mac, not Windows. I like that I can link the PDFs to the reference library in it. It helps keep my PDFs organized.
  14. Nov 12, 2009 #13
    The biggest problems I have with Endnote.

    1) Dates are not converted correctly (they expect you to manually change the date format for each citation style instead of doing it automatically).

    2) Some of the reference types have database fields are not very clear (for example, for the electronic sources they should make it clear which fields are for the date accessed and which fields are for the date the webpage was last updated).

    3) Poor integration with word processors (sometimes lagging or crashing with Word and with no proper integration for Word Perfect)

    4) The interface is anti-intuitive. It really looks like the program was designed with the UI standards of the mid to late 1990's and never updated, which gives it an unnecessarily steep learning curve.

    Other than those problems, it is a pretty good program, with a plethora of features and I do not have a lot of complaints. Microsoft started to include a reference manger with Word 2007, and my hope is that they will buy a company like the one that makes EndNote or develop in house into something really good, but right now, it is pretty bare-bones, but useful enough if you do not have a separate reference manager and are usingn popular styles like APA or MLA.
  15. Nov 12, 2009 #14
    I've been using Zotero lately for my thesis and papers and it is pretty nice. Organizes everything well, creates bibliographies in a variety of formats, can download citations directly from the net, and on top of that its free. I couldn't find anything else out there better for the price.
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