Mine the Harvest

Tag: Research Organization

Mendeley – iTunes for Research, but Better

by on Aug.20, 2010, under My Life

Pete Eby's citations

While I am not a big iTunes fan, the analogy is at least somewhat accurate and sums up some of the key benefits of Mendeley Desktop quickly. Like iTunes, it provides a client you can use to organize, access and interact with media – in this case research papers rather than music. The cross platform client runs on Linux, OS X and Windows and can sync your research library with on-line storage you can access anywhere. Some of the key features I like are:


* Search your entire library of papers very quickly. Make notes, and define tags, for papers which stay with them and can also be searched. Searching within dozens of PDFs seems to execute very fast.

* Automatic retrieval of document information based on analysis of metadata in the paper. Mendeley will scan the paper, identify the author and name of the paper, and if it finds a DOI or PMID publication catalog number it can then pull in additional metadata for the paper for you – all very painlessly. Very cool.

* Allows you to create collections which can be shared publicly (I’ve not used this feature yet.)

* On-line library of thousands of paper to browse and easily download. Note: Unlike iTunes, Mendeley is not a publishing agent per say – they simply point you to where the research can be found. Thus you may get directed to sites like the ACM or IEEE digital libraries, or various sites for medical research, which require an account to access. To make maximum use of Mendeley you may want to find out if your company or school has an account which provides access to these publications. (There are many papers available however which do not require this additional access.)

* The web site presents the current, mostly highly read papers, organized by discipline, which makes finding interesting things to read very simple.

* Web importer: A Javascript bookmarklet that imports documents you find on-line, and associated .PDFs if possible, into your library.

* Provides social network opportunities by searching for other Mendeley users, viewing their publications and bio information, and contacting them through Mendeley.

* One of the best features is integration with OpenOffice / MS Office which makes adding citations a snap. Choose your citation format and use the plug-in for your Office Suite and you can painlessly add citations with abandon. Oh the glory.

Mendeley Desktop Client Getting Started

In addition to downloading the desktop client, I recommend reading the Getting Started Guide which will orient you on how to add existing papers you may have into Mendeley and how the metadata analysis works. It also shows how to use the OpenOffice plug-in for citing works.

Note that if you wish to synchronize your PDFs with your on-line account, you must enable this. Use the “Edit Settings” button (near the middle center of the tool bar).

You can add existing PDF simply by dragging and dropping them into Mendeley. This places them in a “needs reviewed” status during which you can have Mendeley search online for additional information. (It does this automatically, but if you need to do so manually: Right click on the document, select “mark as” and choose “Needs Review”. A dialog will now appear asking if you want to try automatically searching.)

Now, just start browsing for papers at the Mendeley site and use the bookmarklet when you are browseing to import items into your Mendeley.

Happy reading!

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