Why use reference management software
As I had mentioned in my last post, a good reference management software program is as important to a grad student as a computer. From the first day of class, you will be inundated with various articles, book excerpts, and links that are fundamental to your studies. During my comprehensive exams, I found myself going back to material from classes that I had taken in the first year of my program! However, if it were not for my reference manager, I would have (and still did, to some extent) had to search for those references again. Although my library is very good, some of those chapters may take a few days to obtain again, so it’s better to keep them on hand.
In hindsight, here’s my advice to those taking classes:
- From the first day of class, put your class syllabus into the reference manager program, and tag it with labels.
- Put all your electronic articles into your reference manager. Use tags so that you can find things again (they may be big tags, such as “theory building,” “qualitative methodology,” or “epistemology”).
Mendeley offers an annotation feature that I’ve found is more useful than Sente. Plus, you may use your Mendeley on moble devices – which I’ve found is useful.
However, I’ve also annotated using Evernote, because unlike Mendeley and Sente, Evernote’s OCR reader can search your own handwriting! Another useful annotation app for iPad is TopNotes, which allows you to make notebooks, doodle, and export to Evernote.
In any case, do not rely on paper copies alone! Unless you have an unusually keen photographic memory, sooner or later, you’re going to forget who said what, and a good reference manager is going to help you keep track and keep organized.