By Chris Pollette
It may seem like an unusual combination: keeping track of your research and building a social network. That, however, is the dual purpose of Mendeley, a service that helps you document your research while working with others who share similar academic interests.
Because of its social networking aspect, Mendeley requires its users to create an account on its website. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to manage your library, much like you would with other tools including Zotero and EndNote. A free basic account gives you up to 500 MB of personal web space and 500 MB of shared web space, though you can upgrade your file storage for a monthly fee.
Building your library is simple. You can add the Mendeley bookmarklet to your web browser to include your online sources. If you’ve downloaded PDF files of journal articles, you can import those documents into your library either via the website or by dragging and dropping PDF files onto the desktop client. The desktop software is compatible with Windows, Macintosh, and Linux operating systems.
Mendeley records citation information automatically from the information embedded in the document. The software compares identifying information from the document to online sources to ensure the citation is as accurate as possible. Speaking of bibliographic details, Mendeley supports more than 1,000 of the most popular citation styles, so there’s a strong chance that whichever style you’ll be using for your work is included. In addition, the service has plugins compatible with many versions of Microsoft Word and its open-source competitor OpenOffice, so you can retrieve citations as you write.
To access your personal library, you can use the organization’s website or download the desktop software. An application for Apple's iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad lets you read documents while you’re on the go.
It’s easy to use Mendeley to build your academic social network. On Mendeley Web, you can create a network of people with whom you work on different topics, or join an existing group to follow its progress. Either way, it’s easy to share resources among team members. It’s not possible to use the iOS client to manage your network, though you can create groups with the desktop software. Mendeley’s website is currently the best option for finding new contacts for your network.
Is Mendeley the right reference manager for you? Well, currently the Emory Libraries only support Zotero and EndNote, but it’s good to keep up with all the options. If you’re working in collaboration with others, are interested in seeing what other researchers are working on, or want a reference manager that will let you work while you’re on the go, you might give the service a try.
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