Friday, 29 November 2013

Zotero, Mendeley, RefWorks

So, on to the first action on my PDP (well, the first one I've decided to tackle anyway). I've been meaning to look at, and use, a referencing tool properly for a while now.

When I first looked at Zotero back in August 2011, I actually quite liked it. So I thought trying it out again would be a good place to start. Unfortunately, the things I originally loved about Zotero (how user-friendly it seemed, the fact that it automatically attached full text where a PDF was available) either didn't seem to happen anymore, or had become so unintuitive (at least to me) that, after spending a good hour or two playing with it, on at least two separate occasions, I gave up.

My next port of call was Mendeley. I knew I'd found this less intuitive than Zotero in the past, so I wasn't surprised that I wasn't especially keen on the product when I tried to use it again. Although at least it didn't keep jumping me back to the start screen for no apparent reason every time I clicked on something, as Zotero had been doing. Another disadvantage to Mendeley was that I couldn't see anywhere to add my own notes to an article, which is really important for me.

My final possible referencing tool was RefWorks. I had shied away from using this a little, as it's a paid-for piece of software. UWE, where I work, does have a subscription to it, but what happens if I use it, rely on it, and then leave UWE? The obvious answer to this is to make sure I export all my references before I go - and in RefWorks this, thankfully, is fairly simple to do. The one problem with that is that RefWorks does have a place for personal notes, but they don't get exported along with the reference. In a worst case scenario this would mean copy and pasting all those personal notes alongside each reference - which leads me to the question; if you're organised, is this really then any better than using Word to store your references? Perhaps not a popular question amongst librarians who advocate and support using referencing software, but maybe one that we should be asking.

For the time being though, RefWorks does do everything I want it to, and is fairly user-friendly. It's also easy to use at home and at work thanks to UWEs very simple 'log-in once' system. Using it also means that I'm learning more about a piece of software I'll potentially get asked questions about at work, so it is beneficial to me in another way. As I've already started to add a couple of references to it I'll continue to do so, but if I didn't exist I'm not sure I'd see adding my references to a Word document as a particularly worse option. But then, I am very organised and will format my references as I go and pretty much always remember to add them (and notes about the text) to a Word document. RefWorks actually means I have more work to do in one go here, as although it exports references in the wanted format, they still need to be checked and corrected as they're never 100% right.

Having said all that, maybe if you're a less organised person a referencing tool like RefWorks or Zotero is a better choice than a text file for managing your references. You decide...

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