Papers/Mendeley/Sente/Bookends for the humanities?
October 17, 2011 10:43 AM   Subscribe

I've heard of these great Mac tools, but how do they work for the humanities? I'm a PC person working with some Mac users who want to organize their scholarly lives. I know that Papers, Mendeley, Bookends, and Sente are mentioned as excellent Mac programs, but according to various forum posts around the web I've heard that they're far better for the sciences. Can anyone recommend these for use in the humanities?

In no particular order, I've read that Papers/Mendeley/Bookends/Sente do not: import book citations very well, even with ISBNs; handle multimedia (DVD, interview, artwork) citations very well; handle Chicago-style endnotes very well; have citation styles for major humanities journals. Are those things true?

It seems like they use PubMed/ArXiv/other science databases as their major citation lookup sources, which, of course, doesn't help with a bunch of humanities PDFs, and helps even less with importing a bunch of book citations from, say, the Library of Congress.

I'm in the process of installing these programs and playing around with them myself, but am hoping someone can tell me whether they've successfully or unsuccessfully used these programs in the humanities. If you have, what was your workflow?
posted by lillygog to Education (10 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I did see this recent and very helpful thread, but am hoping for a few more specific answers on the capability of these programs. (Not to be too much of a pain...)
posted by lillygog at 10:47 AM on October 17, 2011

From a legal writing perspective - they are a decent step up from just using folders (I have mainly used papers and sente), but they have obvious limitations - first, they tend not to support the citation formats I use - principally OSCOLA (although support for american legal citation formats is much better I think.) Second, they don't integrate well with services like LexusNexis or Westlaw, which are essential in my field, meaning you have to import papers manually and fill in details by hand That said, if you pick one and use it, I think they are still a big step up from just using folders or something similar.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 10:59 AM on October 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, Wretch729, those are helpful threads but I mostly read through those already -- I'm hoping for specifics on how these Mac programs work with humanities databases, which those threads did not really include.
posted by lillygog at 12:21 PM on October 17, 2011

I can only speak to Mendeley: I do a google scholar search for the book and import that into Mendeley. Boom. Some cleanup is always necessary.
posted by stratastar at 3:26 PM on October 17, 2011

I use Mendeley. There are enough other humanities people using it and sharing their libraries that a lot of stuff is already on there. And searching for people with libraries similar to mine is a goldmine for new stuff I haven't read. I've never really had problems exporting bibliographies from it. Sometimes they need tweaking, but it's never as bad as starting from scratch and doing it by hand. You can always export your whole library into another format (Endnote, for instance), if there's a specific style you need for a particular paper, that Mendeley won't easily do.
posted by lollusc at 5:28 PM on October 17, 2011

I should clarify that I'm more social sciences than humanities, but some of my research interests sit squarely within the traditional humanities fields and I've still had no problem with Mendeley.
posted by lollusc at 5:29 PM on October 17, 2011

Response by poster: lollusc what you say is interesting because it backs up what I've read elsewhere: one may have to use Mendeley in concert with EndNote specifically for access to the humanities citation styles.
posted by lillygog at 5:55 PM on October 17, 2011

It doesn't have to be Endnote, though. You can import and export back and forth into any format if you are willing to take multiple steps to do so. Or you can always export straight into bibtex if you want something free and completely customisable.
posted by lollusc at 6:41 PM on October 17, 2011

Citeulike is probably also worth looking at. I used it for a while before I switched to Mendeley, and it is even better for social bookmarking.

I also used (and am now returning to) Zotero, which now is cross-platform (formerly my only complaint with it was that it didn't work outside Firefox). I actually prefer Zotero to Mendeley, although that might just be because I started with it first.
posted by lollusc at 6:43 PM on October 17, 2011

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