Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Using mobile devices for library research, part 4

We all know mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones are useful for communicating and surfing the web, but in this series of blog posts, I've been sharing ideas for how you can also use a mobile device to conduct research in the library.

In my first post, I showed how you can use a mobile device to browse the Armacost Library catalog, search a database, or take notes in an app. In my second post, I delved into a couple databases (Ebsco and Naxos) that offer mobile-friendly apps and websites. My third post focused on Evernote, an app I use every day to get work done. This final post is about citation management on a mobile device.

What are Citation Management Programs?

Citation management programs exist to help you keep track of the sources you consult for a research project, and insert references into documents as you write. These programs have two parts:

1) A citation library listing the sources you used (essentially a database with fields for author, title, publisher, date, etc.)

2) A piece of software allowing the citation library to communicate with your word processor, whether it be Word, LibreOffice, LaTeX, etc.

Armacost Library recommends Zotero as a free alternative to expensive commercial programs like  Refworks and Endnote. Most citation management programs are owned and developed by library publishers, but Zotero is developed as an open source project, supported by the Corporation for Digital Scholarship, George Mason University, and an army of volunteers who contribute code, write documentation and test new features.

Citation Management on a Mobile Device

Citation management programs like Zotero weren't originally designed to be used on mobile devices, but you can use some simple workarounds to get common tasks done.

Add new items to your library

Use the Zotero bookmarklet to add a book or article you are viewing to your Zotero library.

View and manage your citations

Since there are no native Zotero apps on Apple or Android devices, use the website to log in and view your citations. Alternatively, you could use third party software like Papership to view your library on an Apple device, or Zandy for Android. Many researchers use the Zotfile plug-in to help organize citations they have already added.

Papership lets you add a PDF to your Zotero library from your web browser

Print or email a cited source

When you save an item to your Zotero library it typically includes a link back to the full text PDF, which you can use to load the source in your browser for easy printing or sharing. Alternatively, third party apps like Papership make it easy to search or browse for a source; you can then use the print and email functionality built into your mobile device.

Inserting citations into your paper

This is one area where mobile device support still falls short of what you experience on a desktop or laptop computer. Apple's Pages app, Microsoft Office 365 and other common mobile word processing programs do not offer connections to your Zotero library, so you'd have to manually create citations for documents you type up on a mobile device.

Share your experiences

In this series of blog posts, I've shared some of my experiences using mobile devices as part of my research process. What about you, do you find tablets or smartphones to be helpful with your research? Share your comments below!

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