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Sunday, 28 August 2011

CPD23 - Thing 14 - Online reference sources

This week we are focusing on three online referencing tools - Zotero, Mendeley and CiteUlike.

The very existence of these tools which are designed to help academics and reasearchers in citing sources efficiently, correctly and quickly shows just how times have changed (and consequently I feel very old although in the words of Bruce Forsyth doddery I am not!).

I'd not previously heard of any of the tools, which is unsurprising since I'm not an academic/reference librarian or researcher. While they might not be directly helpful in my day to day work, I realise however they could be useful for drafting and including references when preparing an article for a professional journal such as CILIP Update.

I zeroed in on deciding to explore Mendeley this time (basically because, I don't use the Firefox browser which rules out downloading the add-on and when searching CiteUlike no relevant articles appeared for export control related topics so this seemed less helpful to my immediate needs).

If you've never used Mendeley before, it's been described as the 'Last FM' of online referencing, since it is created by the same people behind that site. Personally it reminds me very much of Google's Picasa image management application (which I love) that lets you store, tag and categorise all your pictures. Mendeley basically does the same thing but for PDFs. It also allows you to annotate, highlight and add notes electronically to a PDF instead of scribbling in the margins on a printed paper copy (which I've done from time to time). From a bibliography point of view, you can incorporate references seemlessly into Word. You can also collaboratively share documents if necessary. There is also a desktop and online version, which means I can sync between work and home PCs.
If you are not convinced of Mendeley's value, one of the best reviews about the site is available on the Makeuseof website - see the posting about 'Organize your PDF files and collaboratively research with Mendeley'.

Basically Mendeley is a tool that I never thought or knew might be useful but now realise might be quite helpful.
In fact, Thing 14 also made me think about all of those online tools, applications and websites that exist but which we haven't stumbled across yet.

You might like to know that PC Mag has a list of the Top 100 Undiscovered Websites which provides some food for thought. For instance, who knows www.bubbl.us, a web app that helps create mind maps or www.zamzar.com, an online tool which can convert anything (images, documents etc) and email them to yourself in 4 easy steps.
In the same vein, I also periodically read with interest, Phil Bradley's Internet Q&A column in CILIP Update and keep tuned in with his Web 2.0 weblog. This is a great resource to keep tabs with applications you might need to use in connection with a particular activity at some point in the future.

This post has also made me sadly reflect on all the things I don't know or will never know, never experience, never see, never touch, never feel...all that is unknown.

Coincidentally it was announced in the news this week that scientists have estimated the number of species in the word at 8.7 million (compared to previous vague estimates of between three and 100 milion). Mankind is only aware, however of a small proportion of this total (around 14%) of all potential species. That indicates how much more there is to learn about the world. A sobering thought!

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