Reference Management Software for Thesis/Dissertation Studies: A Freebie

Reference Management Software for Thesis/Dissertation Studies: A Freebie

Dr. Niall McElwee, Senior Editor, TheDocCheck.Com

Heart stethoscopeAs it’s Friday, I thought I’d give you some good news! I’m going to direct you to a freebie – and students just love freebies. In your life as a postgraduate you’ll need to keep track of your academic sources. By this, I mean all the material you’ve both accessed and wish to reference at some point including books, peer-reviewed journal articles, websites, newspapers and qualitative interviews. I’ve noticed over the years so many students find this arduous and sometimes attempt to complete this process at the end of their studies as opposed to the start or throughout. Thus creates unnecessary heartache so let’s just try to avoid it.

A particular challenge is keeping track of all your references and citations as your thesis gathers momentum. Therefore, your University or College Supervisor will often recommend that you use employ some dedicated reference management software. A number of commercial packages are available (two of the most popular being EndNotes and Reference Manager), but there are others. And, guess what? Some are free. One such freebie is www.zotero.org which provides a free, open source programme called Zotero. Now, the great thing about Zotero is that it can be integrated with Word and OpenOffice (guess what guys, these are also free). So, what is it? Well, Zotero is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. It does what it says on the tin.

Zotero can be used to organize your research sources such as books, articles, items found on the web, your own analyses, interviews that are stored electronically, and every other thing that could possibly be used in a Dissertation or Thesis. In practice this allows you to place the bibliographic information into Zotero. Furthermore, you can attach files to the bibliographic information, for example a PDF-version of a peer-reviewed journal article (you shouldn’t really be using non peer review material), a word-file containing your own (brilliant!) notes, an MP3-file with your oral comments on an article (I always recommend students record themselves talking and then transcribe and edit files later). Moreover, you can enter references in your Word file (or the freebie OpenOffice file), and automatically construct a complete reference list at the end of your document.

Now, there’s one other inducement to use this platform (and they’re not remunerating us in any way at the Clinic for giving you this little nugget). Zotero also includes a number of really useful online collaboration functions that permit you to share bibliographies and other data online. We are in the age of big data people and your peers love for you to share anything useful or anything free with them.

The final piece of good news on this for our student clients? All of this takes less than 20 minutes to install and less than an hour to learn depending on your wifi speed, tech skills and, of course, patience.

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