September 17, 2008

Organizing references – The tools are so close…

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:42 pm by carolynresearch

So, I’ve been trying to turn my notes from reading papers into an organized literature review. Strangely, to me, the most time-consuming part of this has been logistical.

I have papers, somewhat sorted, which are either printed out, or in .pdf format. I have notes, either written on them or in the same directory as the electronic copy. I have some more general notes, handwritten or electronic, organized by theme, for lack or a better term, by some common thread that links different bodies of research.I’ve been careful to keep track of the theme-paper connection, with at least the name and year of every paper listed somewhere in the notes.

To find these papers, I had some handed to me, and I searched for some. The university library website makes it relatively easy to find a paper, if I know some of its details, and allows me to easily find the papers one references or which reference one. All this is great, and it’s a wonder of the internet. I can’t begin to imagine looking through paper copies of each journal at the library.

But I really want a way to link this to my notes on these papers, and these thematic keywords. If someone hands me a paper, I want an easy way to tell if it references something I’ve looked at. I’ve tried a few tools, de.li.cious (or however it’s punctuated) and citeulike, and the like. They get a little confused by the library login (so does firefox, so I don’t blame them). They can organize my papers by keywords, which is great. citeulike seems to be able to export to a BibTeX file, for future use. I am getting a little greedy, though. I want to be able to do a little more database type processing – generate lists of papers which reference something I’ve tagged with a certain theme, or which are referenced by something I’ve tagged with a certain theme.

And including the relevant referencing material I’ve written for a paper or for my thesis would be nice, too.

Maybe this is just the programmer in me, wanting to change every tool I use to suit me perfectly, or maybe it is the part of me that likes to procrastinate.

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