A list of sources in a Word doc isn't gonna cut it.
September 6, 2012 12:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm writing my MA capstone research paper and feel like I need to step up my game with managing citations and possibly using something other than Word. Help?

I saw this thread asking what software is helpful for a thesis, and this one asking about biblio software. Both are at least a couple years old, so I wanted to see if anyone has any other suggestions. I'm willing to pay some money for a good product (maybe up to $50ish) but realistically this is the last paper I'll be writing for a while and I can't afford to shell out much. Free is awesome.

I have a PC (generally using Firefox) though it would be nice if I could also do some work on the iPad. Right now I have a bunch of PDFs saved in dropbox and would like to be able to organize those in a more searchable fashion. Being able to make notes on them would be wonderful.

Right now I'm leaning towards using Zotero and LaTeX.
This is by far the longest paper I'll ever have written (I think 25 is where I topped out before) and I really want to do it right.
posted by brilliantine to Education (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If you already have a library of pdfs that you want to organize in a searchable fashion and cite-while-you-write, then Papers is for you (though its a bit more expensive than your $50 limit).
posted by googly at 1:05 PM on September 6, 2012

I use Mendeley. It's free and easy to use, and it has most of the features I would want. You can drag and drop the papers from your dropbox into the Mendeley window, and it'll automatically extract as much of the bibliographic infor as it can from them. You'll then have to go through and proofread/clean up. I find it does a pretty good job reading recent pdfs, but I usually have to manually enter info for older ones.

You can then export cites in a variety of different formats. It doesn't handle in-text citations (or, at least, I've never used it that way). You can also store all your documents on the Mendeley website, but you get a pretty small amount of space for free. You can pay extra for more space. I just use Mendeley to save the citation info about the papers, instead of storing the pdfs, but if you want to pay extra, you can use it to store all your pdfs as well.

As for searching, you can search the text in the documents, and you can also apply tags to documents and filter them based on tags. You can highlight the documents themselves, and can add notes on the sidebar.
posted by pompelmo at 1:14 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Particularly if you're going to buy some software, "what are other people in my field using?" is the most important question.

My coworkers mostly use EndNote. There's a lot to hate about it, but I don't really have a choice.
posted by gurple at 1:56 PM on September 6, 2012

You may want to ask your university library before purchasing. Some have site licenses for EndNote.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:06 PM on September 6, 2012

A lot of Uni libraries also have RefWorks. I teach both Zotero and RefWorks and I think they're both fine and will probably do what you need as far as I can tell. Mendeley is good too, maybe better for the sciences than for the humanities.
posted by mskyle at 2:20 PM on September 6, 2012

I've found Zotero to be very capable, especially now that it's available as a stand-alone program. It integrates well with Word and LibreOffice, and can export BibTeX for LaTeX.

Here is a useful comparison between Zotero and Endnote (TL;DR: quite evenly matched). I personally would avoid Endnote. Even if your university has a site licence, what happens when you leave?

For the actual writing, I would absolutely go with LaTeX. Word, LibreOffice and their ilk are nice for banging out a short letter or notice in a hurry, but for a long document I want something more robust.
posted by pont at 3:02 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you already have a library of pdfs that you want to organize in a searchable fashion and cite-while-you-write, then Papers is for you (though its a bit more expensive than your $50 limit).

I agree wholeheartedly, with the added note that Papers is 40% discounted if you are a student, so that puts it within your limit. My husband, the budding academician, uses Papers exclusively, writing his papers in LaTeX. I also liked Mendeley and Zotero (Zotero especially since I can refer to web pages), but I ended up using Papers for my capstone paper last season because it's really that awesome (fwiw I write with Word).
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 4:08 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

No reason to go with Endnote these days. I only ever hear horror stories from my students and there's so many order-of-magnitude better alternatives, as mentioned above.
posted by firesine at 4:17 PM on September 6, 2012

Nthing Mendeley - it seemed to be a bit buggy in its interaction with Word (possibly due to compatibility issues with it being an older mac version of word), but I found it to be suitable for my needs, and easy to use. I preferred it over Zotero or EndNote or ReferenceManager.
posted by pikeandshield at 4:17 PM on September 6, 2012

I like Papers more than Zotero, but I'm very much a Mac-person.

I do believe that Papers is available for the iPad.
posted by heyjude at 4:22 PM on September 6, 2012

I know this is an older post, but I am writing a thesis and have been very, very happy using Citavi, on the suggestion of some folks at Phinished (if you have not joined that website, I suggest you do so!).

I can't tell you how much time it's saved me when I can just plug in an ISBN, PMID number, or DOI, and Citavi pulls directly for me all the data I need. I only wish I had found this at the beginning of my graduate degree.

I've also heard good things about Mendeley but haven't been using it very long. Zotero is very helpful, I suspect, when you are citing a lot of material that is on the web.
posted by mitschlag at 7:01 PM on January 31, 2013

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