Munging Mendeley

For all academic writing up to and including my dissertation, I used Word’s built-in reference manager. This had at least two disadvantages: it couldn’t include PDFs of papers, and it put names of authors beginning with accented letters at the end of bibliographies. 

To get around the first disadvantage, I stored PDFs in folders: not fun when I couldn’t automatically synchronise folders from PCs around the university to my Macs. (It’s better now I use just one PC at Napier, and I can access my files via a virtual desktop.) There was no real cure to the second – it’s possible to cut and paste errant references but whenever I regenerated a bibliography Word oh-so-helpfully re-disordered my references.

I was then introduced to the delights of Mendeley, a web-based reference manager with desktop apps for Mac, iOS, Windows and Linux. It doesn’t have the disadvantages I found, it has plug-ins for Word and it has social features such as sharing groups of references with colleagues. (It can do other things too but I don’t yet use them.)

So for the past year I’ve build up hundreds of references in my Mendeley installations. But some messiness has occurred: duplicate entries, entries with no journal or publication, entries with no author, entries with no title, several variants on authors’ names (Mendeley distinguishes between ‘Ryan, B’ and ‘Ryan B.’.) Also, I’d not categorised my references at all.

So I’ve spent two working days creating folders for my past and present projects, then moving references to these folders, manually eliminating duplicates (the build-in duplicates manager suggested combining similar but un-related references) and getting rid of the dross.

So now I have 542 unique references, some of which appear in more than one folder. All of them have authors and titles. Where relevant, they have journal or publication names. There are still 192 references which aren’t in project folders. I assume they were collected when documents were evolving but were not included in the final versions I used to categorise. I could try to allocate them to subject folders but just now I can’t be bothered. Maybe next weekend.

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