Most of our searching and research activities take place on the Web, whether searching Google Scholar or disciplinary indexing & abstracting databases. How to find and manage relevant sources for your research becomes a very important aspect of successfully guiding and managing your research. One important piece of puzzle in successfully managing your research processes is to integrate library resources into your research & learning environment.
Here are some tips for integrating library resources into your research activities:
1) Know your browsers. This may sound very basic, but knowing what features are there helps you organize your research activities and this is the first step towards establishing the research & learning environment that works for you. Here are a comparison chart for most common Internet browsers and the help page on bookmarks and other navigational features for IE 7, Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera.
2) Take advantage of the University of Manitoba Libraries resources while surfing the web. Download LibX - the Libraries' toolbar (for IE & Firefox), a plug-in for your browser that enables you to check whether the item identified on amazon site is held in the Libraries collection, to integrate library resources automatically with your Google Scholar search results, and to quickly access the U of M Libraries catalogue or One Stop Search. If you don't need to have the extra toolbar open all the time, you can turn it on only when you need it. (For example, for FireFox, go to View pull-down menu on the browser, and select Toolbars, deselect LibX U of M.) For further information, please check the full description of LibX.
Another important plag-in for your browser is UML proxy bookmarklet (IE, Firefox, Safari, etc.). When the bookmarklet is installed on your browser, you can integrate library resources as you surf the web. With a click of the bookmarklet, it instantly places your browser behind the U of M Libraries proxyserver and you will have access to library resources.
3) Acquaint yourself with the citation/bibliographical management tool of your choice. There are many potential choices available, but RefWorks is available to all members of the University of Manitoba community. Three freely available tools to be noted are zotero, an open access tool for Firefox browser, and Mendeley, a bibliographical management tool, PDF reader/manager, and a social networking tool in one, designed specifically for researchers, and PubGet, a tool designed for researchers in life sciences to expediate PDF's retrieval. Zotero is gaining its popularity, and Mendeley is still in beta, but anticipated to keep improving its functionality. Mendeley Desktop is available in Windows, Mac, and Linux. Citation creation feature is yet to be functional for Mac users, but when you combine with RefWorks or other citation management tool, this tool streamlines managing PDF's cluttered on your computer. Mendeley supports RIS and BibTex formats. PubGet is not really a citation/bibliographical management tool, but it seems to work seemlessly with zotero, if you already have it on your browser, and also Mendeley for organizing the PDF files retrieved.
4) Acquaint yourself with personal account features of your pet databases/tools. Many indexing & abstracting databases and e-journals collection sites have the personal account features. Most features are common across different databases/tools, such as saving your search history, saving the items you selected, alert services (e-mail/rss), and exporting the records to your bibliographical management tool. Try out to see if any of the features add some value to you. [Please note, however, that usability of the personal account features vary across different databases/tools.]
5) Take advantage of [social] bookmarking tools that meet your needs. There are so many social bookmarking tools out there that you can pick any ones that suit your needs. In terms of your thesis work, the intention here is to use bookmarking tools primarily to organize and facilitate your research. Bookmarking tools are convenient in gathering sources when you encounter them. One way is to consolidate the sources for further organization in your citation/bibliographical management tool. For beginners, here are a few examples of bookmarking tools that you can try:
- Diigo has highlighting and annotating features and slightly more suited for academic work than Del.icio.us. If you access many full-text articles in html format (web page), Diigo features are very useful. You can make "private" as default in your settings.
- CiteULike is designed for researchers. You can supplement this tool with your bibliographical citation tool. When you turned on CiteULike option in LibX preferences (See Item #2), you will see CiteULike posting icon in url address bar and makes your selections easy. . CiteULike has the options to export the sources you selected in RIS, BibTeX, PDF, RTF, Delicious, Formatted Text. You can also create a bibliography by dragging and dropping the items into your word-processing document. You can link CiteULike with Mendeley.
- Mendeley also has the bookmarking feature to capture bibliographical information and to important PDF. Functionality of retrieving PDF files from the site, however, depends on whether the site allows access by Mendeley.
First and foremost, it is important to identify your research needs in terms of what stage of thesis writing you are at. Are you pre-proposal or post-proposal? Would it be most productive to start with a couple of key journals to identify relevant articles? Or is searching broadly in the indexing & abstracting database for your disciplinary area more helpful? Is your topic multi-disciplinary in nature? Do you want to identify key authors on your topic? Based on your immediate research needs, you can start integrating library resources into your research & learning environment in an incremental manner.
Please feel free to consult your Liaison Librarian.