Research Tools You Need: Mendeley
Updated: Sep 27, 2019
If you are knee-deep in journal articles (step away from the printer) or your academic reference list is looking a tad unkempt, then you need a good reference management tool. Let me introduce you to Mendeley.
What is Mendeley?
There are lots of reference management tools out there but I'm now into my fifth year of using the Mendeley platform. Mendeley is a convenient tool to organise your journal article library. With Mendeley, you can read, annotate, cite and write. It's a free tool (hello postgrad students!) which lets you access your journal articles from anywhere.
What are the main features?
Store - with Mendeley you can import whatever you want - journal articles, your own publications - which you can then organise and search however you wish. Think of it is as your personal google for your academic literature.
Organise - you can set up folders (for example around themes) and drag and drop literature into these to help you organise your thoughts effectively. There are also standard filters available such as needs review, favourites to help you prioritise literature.
Cite - you can import citations from most quality journal websites such as Emerald, or you can manually enter them. Just check that it has imported the pdf as well as the citation - if not you can add this.
Reference - Mendeley comes with a handy MS Word plug-in so you can cite as you write. You can generate reference styles by choosing from the standard options such as MLA, Harvard and you have the option to customise and create your own to mirror your house style.
Filter - towards the bottom left of the Mendeley screen you can filter your work by author keywords, by journal name etc. to help you deep dive into your existing literature base. I found this helpful for defining the scope of my work and deciding which journals to target.
Recommend - Mendeley will recommend related articles for you either using the tool at the top of the screen or by receiving an email update from Mendeley each week which suggests new articles that you might be interested based on your current array of literature.
Read & Annotate - for any article you have stored Mendeley offers tools that allow you to highlight text, add notes and annotate. You can revisit work time and time again and add more notes. I'm a pen and paper kind of girl but I have found the highlight and notes tool highly effective that I no longer print out articles as I'm comfortable working on screen.. For example, you can highlight one segment of text over and over again (just like you would double highlight an important segment of text) the colour of the highlight then changes to emphasise its importance.
Which devices can I use with Mendeley?
Mendeley is available as a download to Mac or Windows so you can access it directly from your desktop. There is also an app for mobile so if you want to access your academic literature on-the-go, you can. You can also go to www.mendeley.com where you can access your library.
How do I get started?
Register at www.mendeley.com to set up your account and off you go. The world of academic literature is now your oyster. The Mendeley blog and help guides provide a good resource if you want to know more.
What if it goes wrong - then what?
I'm all about damage control. My computer keyboard broke the night before my PhD was due (let's not talk about that right now). However, I have been really impressed so far with Mendeley's service (this isn't a sponsored post by the way). When you need support simply log a request via the Mendeley website (you can also do this via Twitter). I had a reply within a few hours to help me resolve a query. Pretty good considering they said they were experiencing high demand.
Good to know...
Keep your pdf files backed up for all of your articles and if anything goes wrong you can import them again should you need to.
Elsevier owns Mendeley - in case you didn't know.