rAPPido Review: Mendeley (reference manager)

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As promised, I have begun looking at reference managers for the iPad. The reason? To give our students easy-to-use tools for citation and bibliography creation so that they are prepared for Cegep and University. It is never too early to install good academic practices!

My criteria is a little different as we are a high school and not a University. Most of our students do not write research-heavy essays. Most of their research needs are satisfied by general reference sources articles online.

Yet it is still important that they know how to properly cite their sources.

I am looking for a lightweight tool that:

  1. Allows students to collect all their sources from websites, youtube videos, online encyclopedias and even print books (through a barcode scanner) and quickly format them into a bibliography.
  2. Is easy to use and intuitive. To be able to search via Safari or Chrome and have a bookmarklet that saves the article and its metadata to the app.
  3. Allows students to import and export articles and information with ease.

That is all good and fine, but a lot of the apps are heavy-weight, reference managers like EndNote and are very expensive. I am very cheap, so I thought I would begin with the free app.

What is it? Mendeley is a Reference Manager application that works on your computer as well as your iPad. It will collect all your online sources and keep them in one place. It is also supposed to help you with your citations and bibliography, but more on that below.

Price: free

Does it meet my criteria? The iPad app does not. The free desktop version allows you to add a plug-in to word and add citations and bibliographies really niftily:

See the upper toolbar that says Insert or Edit citation? That takes you straight to the Mendeley application on your desktop and allows you to choose the article you want to cite:

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Here is my MLA citation:

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The bibliography was as easy as clicking “Insert Bibliography”:

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But for the iPad? Nope. Although I took a lot of screenshots in order to write this review, I don’t think I will bother showing you as it became very clear after I set up my account andf the bookmarklet in Safari that allowed my to add the article to the app, that this tool did not do what I needed it to do. In fact, there is nothing that the Mendeley app doesn’t do that Diigo doesn’t do. In Fact, the Diigo browser app is free and allows you to search the internet whiteout having to leave the app.

Although Mendeley works wonders on the desktop in terms of adding citations and bibliographies, the iPad app does not have the same functionality. Its purpose is really as a lightweight companion, one where you can access your articles and annotate them while on the go, then as a direct substitution you get on a computer.

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