What is a Reference Manager

What is a reference manager?

Reference manager… citation tool… bibliography generator – they all are names for literature management software. The purpose of such a tool? To make it easy for users to keep track of the research material they are using in their work.

As a student, postdoc, research scientist, professor… you collect a lot of papers throughout your career (on average, about 250-300/year). Trying to manage those papers manually alone is not only incredibly time-consuming but also leaves you at risk of making errors in the process of keeping tabs on all the research that is fueling your own discoveries. Having a program that can automatically keep you organized is truly worth its weight in gold – eliminating lots of cumbersome manual steps that can slow down your progress. 

Finding the best tool for you

There is a wide variety of reference management tools out there, and while we admittedly are huge fans of Papers, we encourage you to look at all the options. Each reference manager has their own approach to helping you stay on top of your research.

As you are looking around at your options, here are some of the things to consider:

  1. Is it easy to import your existing articles/PDF?
  2. Does it support all the devices you’d like to work across?
  3. Does it automatically extract the article metadata reliably?
  4. Is it easy to organize your library (folders, smart lists, tags)?
  5. Does it provide options to search popular databases?
  6. Can you connect with your institution’s proxy?
  7. Can you annotate the PDF in all the ways you’d like?
  8. How frequent are their updates? Monthly? Quarterly? Annually?
  9. Can you share and collaborate with team members?
  10. Does it offer convenient venues to access your library (web/desktop/mobile)
  11. When it comes to citing – does it support the platforms you prefer using?
  12. Do you find the interface intuitive?

If you are dreading the idea of changing your workflow to jump to a new tool – we understand the hesitancy. Change is rarely something that lands at the top of anyone’s list of “fun things to do”. We will say that in this case, the benefits of a dedicated tool far exceed the cons of wrangling a growing library by hand.

With that, we hope you give Papers a try (and that you love it as much as we do). A free trial is available for you those interested.

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Val Podbelski