Mendeley Desktop is one of the best research tools for academics or students. No matter what kind of research you do, this is the type of tool you need to make it as smooth as possible.
If you’ve never heard of Mendeley, or want to learn how to get the most out of it, here’s how this software can improve your research skills.
What is Mendeley Desktop?
Before we go any further, we need to figure out exactly what Mendeley Desktop is and what isn’t. Mendeley is a desktop application component of the Mendeley Research Ecosystem. This software resides on your desktop computer and is not associated with the web interface or mobile apps.
Of course, Mendeley’s mobile apps are also an important part of the overall system. A cloud service is the glue that ties everything together. We’ll also touch on these other components of the entire service, but the main topic is the desktop application.
Mendeley: Free for Premium
In the past, the free version of Mendeley had some pretty serious limitations. However, these days, the main difference between a free service and a premium service is the amount of cloud storage you get. Free users get two gigabytes of cloud storage, while premium users get ever-increasing amounts depending on how much they pay.
Free users can also create five private groups with up to 25 contributors. We’ll talk about this group collaboration feature a little later. It is unlikely that independent researchers or students will only pay for the premium version.
If you need larger teams for collaboration or a lot of cloud storage, you will most likely have some sort of institutional license for Mendeley, since you probably work for a university or research institution. Remember to check with your institution before paying yourself.
Step 1: Take up the sources
At its core, Mendeley Desktop is a link management tool. You can’t do anything with the program if you don’t have a source database. Since it can be tedious to manually enter information about each source, Mendeley Desktop offers several helpful tools to help speed up the process.
Most academic articles are presented as PDF documents. You can designate specific folders on your hard drive to be monitored by Mendeley Desktop. Any PDFs you copy to this folder will be automatically added to your database.
Mendeley will try to automatically extract the information you want from the document, even if each PDF is in a completely different format. You need to make sure the information is correct, but in the end it will save you a lot of time.
If you really need to enter a source manually, sometimes you can get away with simply entering a title and then marking the source as “to be verified.” Mendeley will then check the title against Google Scholar and automatically fill in all the information if it finds a match.
You should also create your own lists for your sources. When you first introduce new research sources into Mendeley, they all add up to an unsorted stack. This is not the best way to quit if you are working on multiple documents or projects.
Annotations and Notes
Once you’ve uploaded a new research paper to your Mendeley database, you can highlight important snippets of text and leave notes for yourself and your team members.
This is a critical feature for anyone doing academic research. Hundreds of sources can accumulate as you research. It’s important to highlight all the parts that are relevant to your article and keep track of your thoughts as you read others’ research.
The best part about Mendeley Desktop is the auto-citing
Ask anyone who has written academic writing and they will tell you that one of the most tedious parts of this letter is having to do quotes and bibliographies at the end of the article. One of the best things about Mendeley Desktop is that you can automate almost all of your quoting duties.
All you have to do is carefully collect all sources of your research into the Mendeley database. Then, as you write your article, you can use the Mendeley Desktop plugins in your word processor to insert quotes as you go.
The real magic comes when you’re done and have to compile a source list or bibliography. If you put all citations in your article as you go, you only need to click one button to automatically generate your entire list of sources in the correct academic citation format.
This is not such a big problem with shorter articles, but if we are talking about a full dissertation or a long study with hundreds of sources, it seems like the best feature ever created.
Mendeley is great for teams
Mendeley Desktop is ideal for students who work on research projects on their own, as well as for academics who write and publish alone. However, the prevailing trend these days is to publish with other scientists. After all, it is “publish or perish”
Mendeley offers great collaboration tools that allow people to collectively collect literature, share annotations, and otherwise share the research workload. This not only means that you will get the job done faster, it also means that you can learn from other people on the team who are more experienced researchers than you.
Mendeley can help you find important papers
Regardless of which academic discipline you practice, it is important to always stay up to date with the latest research. Mendeley is an incredibly powerful tool for finding new articles to read. This feature is called Mendeley Suggest and uses your personal profile along with a system that tracks which articles are read and cited the most to make suggestions for you when it comes to your reading list.
You will see articles that are of great importance in your field and you should probably read them. This is a huge improvement over the old style of literature review. Of course, you shouldn’t rely on something like Mendeley Suggest by itself.
The Most Important Search Tool in Your Arsenal
There’s a reason the academic publishing giant Elsevier bought Mendeley and why it has been so popular over the years. This program eliminates tedious research and academic writing. Not only will this make you a more productive teacher, but it will also increase your motivation to write!
Knowing that the tedious parts of the job are automated or get done much faster means that you may feel anxious about writing your research, not fear. This is much more than half the battle.