Help me devise an efficient workflow for online study
February 25, 2015 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Please give me your tips for completing online study, particularly how you keep track of all the readings you did working from PDFs, highlighting / note-taking strategies, and any tools that helped you.

My Master's degree is 90% online and many of the readings are available in pdf fromat from various online journals.

What windows based, desktop / laptop tools have you found useful in reading the material comfortably, keeping notes, keeping track of citations - and anything else I might not yet have considered?

The tools I currently have at my disposal are:
An old, but usable ipad 2, with Dropbox and Goodreader
A laptop - decent size, with a subscription to Office365 and a new install of Adobe Digital editions which I need for some library ebooks (I haven't poked around in ADE yet, but it seems pretty clunky and horrible...)

I also have Linux Mint installed on VirtualBox, if there happens to be a good Linux solution to this...

I can't really afford software licences, so please be mindful of that - however, if there is an excellent 1 stop solution for all of this I'd be interested in hearing about it. I could always consider selling a kidney on the black market.

Technology hadn't come very far comparatively when I did my BA, so I have no idea about what the best practices are. Thanks for your help.
posted by man down under to Education (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You can save clippings with links back to the original document, clip from websites, add additional notes, organize notes by "notebooks".
Will sync with iPad 2, and it's free.
There's a paid version, but most of those features you will likely not use.
posted by daq at 4:20 PM on February 25, 2015

Best answer: Mendeley, as well. Completely free, syncs to PDFs in any folder you like, collates notes on them in the cloud so you have them available permanently if you like, automatically pulls citations directly from a PDF. It's not always perfect at that last thing, but it's very easy to tweak citations manually and once tweaked it'll keep everything nicely organized. It has methods to either pair notes in a text box with an individual paper or a "post-it" system where you can directly attach notes to particular sections, and also is quite good at highlighting functions.
posted by sciatrix at 5:24 PM on February 25, 2015

Response by poster: I also discovered a free copy of Endnote provided by uni, if that means anything to anyone...
posted by man down under at 7:11 PM on February 25, 2015

Best answer: I used Endnote before I switched to Mendeley, actually. Trust me, it's terrible software. It's hard to sync PDFs, you can't take notes, and all the citations have to be hand tweaked. Miserable stuff.
posted by sciatrix at 7:14 PM on February 25, 2015

I prefer Zotero to Endnote - browser-based, free.

I'd also recommend hitting up your university library, which may well offer training and advice on this sort of thing - we certainly did when I worked in an academic library. There might also be some kind of student support service that offers similar advice.
posted by Pink Frost at 8:14 PM on February 25, 2015

I'm a fan of Zotero as well. It's also open source and works across all platforms. There are like a ton of features, so check with your library, they should have some sort of workshop or online guide.

Google Scholar has a bibliographic manager export link function that you can turn on via settings. Also look under settings > library links to see if you can show the full text links of your uni's restricted databases.

Check if your uni has a libx extension, which is basically a browser toolbar for your library catalog/resources, etc., so there's less going back and forth when you're looking for something.

There are more scholarly tools here (sortable by licensing/price): Digital Research Tools.
posted by judypjhsu at 11:29 PM on February 25, 2015

What about DevonAgent ?
posted by Mac-Expert at 6:38 AM on February 26, 2015

Response by poster: Two votes for Mendeley is good enough for me. Looks good.

Used to use Evernote a lot - time to get back on the elephant, I guess. Thanks.
posted by man down under at 12:34 PM on February 26, 2015

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