Thursday, February 20, 2014

Using mobile devices for library research

Armacost Library's mobile website
Armacost Library's mobile website

At Armacost Library, we've been working hard to make our virtual library more inviting to you if you use a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. If you've used Armacost Library's mobile site recently, you probably already know you can use it to find out when the library is open or quickly look up a call number or course reserve reading in the library catalog. But did you know that you can use mobile devices in various ways throughout the entire research process? Based on my work as a librarian and experience using a tablet as my primary non-work computer, here are some ideas for how you could take advantage of a mobile device while working on an assignment involving a research paper or presentation:
  • When you are picking out your topic, try finding background information by looking up books, encyclopedias and other trustworthy sources in the library catalog. If you find something useful, click the Save icon in the catalog record to add it to a list, which you can email to yourself for the next time you're visiting the library. 
  • Use outlining or mind mapping apps to organize your thoughts into an outline or cluster. This can help you develop your topic into a focused research question, and figure out where you need additional sources to add evidence and strengthen your argument.
  • As you're reading a source, you can use popular note taking programs like Evernote to take notes and organize your thoughts on your research project. You can add PDF articles found from a library database, maintain a running list of subject terms, scan handwritten notes, or perhaps take a photo of a whiteboard during a brainstorming session for a group project. Evernote offers more suggestions for college students on their blog.
  • You may prefer to type your paper at a desktop or laptop computer with a full sized keyboard and mouse. Some word processing apps allow document syncing so you can write parts of your document on your mobile device at a convenient place, then pick up where you left off when you return to your traditional computer.
  • As you continue to find sources, it's important to keep them organized so you can easily cite them and create your bibliography. Zotero, Endnote, Mendeley and Refworks are well known tools for managing citations that you may already use. With these programs, you can automatically gather citations from a library catalog, article database or Google Scholar and export them to a bibliography (though you still must proofread the results using an official style guide). Depending on the citation management program that you choose, you may be able to interact with your citation library on a mobile device by logging into a website, or via an app natively written for your device's operating system.
Hopefully you will find some of these tips helpful. In a follow up post, I'll share more tips for using specific apps and Armacost Library databases on a mobile device.

In the meantime, I have a question for you. Do you use your mobile device for research? Why or why not? Share your comments below!

Sanjeet Mann
Electronic Resources Librarian, Armacost Library

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