‘Tech 4’ research: EndNote

endnote_aWho never felt overwhelmed with hundreds – or thousands – of papers, books and endless content to read, refer to and make notes of? I am sure if you are in grad school you have had your moments of anguish.

Still, I had mixed feelings on writing about this topic. On one hand I felt like it is so difficult to write a thesis without a reference manager that everybody already knows enough about it – sorry if you inhabit this group. But on the other hand I have talked to many researchers, colleagues and friends who still save their pdfs in a folder and plan to, eventually, add the references manually. So I concluded it is worth a post.

When I look back I cannot conceive the idea that I wrote all my Masters dissertation without a reference manager. I am a perfectionist and to master the required style and make it consistent throughout the document was a real nightmare. When I started the doctorate research those long hours I would have to schedule on my thesis plan were still very present on my mind. Thinking that if I delete some of the references from the body of the text I would then have to delete from the final reference list, but what if it was in some other part of the text? But my thesis is split into – at least – 10 word documents… Well, you get the idea… Let the endless hunting for the presentable and consistent reference citations and list start!

But then I was introduced to EndNote. The – now popular because I can’t tell enough how helpful it has been – Library Teaching and Learning department at Lincoln University runs EndNote workshops for students and staff. There my life as a literature reviewer doctorate researcher became manageable.

I have since read many comments about why EndNote is limited and not recommended. I do acknowledge that it has its disadvantages – the biggest being that it doesn’t  work on the cloud. However because of the support I had at the University I decided to use it anyway. I still think it was a good idea, and hope it doesn’t crash on me before the end of my thesis.

To keep the library safe, it is recommended to do frequent backups, the same way we do with our theses. The software generates a file with all the references and a folder with all attached pdfs, so no need to still save pdfs in an extra folder. I do save my library and folder of attachments most times I backup my thesis, but I have to highlight I haven’t had any problem so far – touch wood!

It seemed already a great tool when I learned that I could add the references in the chosen style and if any changes were made – let’s say I got the year wrong – it would update ALL the references of the document at once. This alone was a great reason to keep up using it.

Some styles can be downloaded online, so if you are writing a paper for a conference that requires the Chicago Reference Style, for example, you can go to the website and download it, add to your EndNote style library and all is done! The next references will be added in that specific style. Here is worth a note: if you cannot find the required style – I am not sure if the Brazilian NBR is available, for instance – somebody in the staff at your institution’s library should be able to put it together and make it available for you.

It all sounded very good to me the way it was, but then I started to attach the pdfs and understood how EndNote does the word search, things just got better. The software allows the search for a word in all your library, and the word doesn’t need to be necessarily in the article/book title.

I have at the moment 426 references in it – and a dozen more to be added – but I am sure it is going to expand in the next few months. All papers I have access to are attached and have highlights and notes/comments. The books have research notes such as where they are available, if I got it from an interloan or from Lincoln Uni itself. Also if the books are from Lincoln, they will have the library reference number. I am sure if I sum up all the hours I will save (re)searching for material in catalogs and trying to work out where those precious references I have read a few months ago are, it will save me a lot of time in the end!

EndNote also has an online version and apart from EndNote there are other reference managers you might like to have a look such as Zotero and Mendeley, which I have downloaded but haven’t fully tried yet. EndNote has been working so far and is the one Lincoln University offers support for, so when I finish my research I might try the others.

How are you organizing your literature review? Do you use a reference manager? I would love to hear about your experience.

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