Tag Archives: mendeley

The Limitations of Mendeley for Academic Writing

Mendeley is a reference manager and academic social network. While this platform has been extremely successful for research collaboration, it is woefully inadequate as a referencing tool. One of the first activities undertaken in the peer review process is to check article submissions for accurate referencing. If references are not cited correctly, the article is rejected without any content being examined. Thus, accurate referencing is a pre-cursor to having publications accepted.

Here are the top five reasons why it is time to find a new reference manager:

1. Reference types do not relate to today’s resources

Mendeley has 16 reference types (see image below) which are inadequate for accurate referencing. For example, many authors cite articles forthcoming, but there is no template provided.

2. CSL Style library is inadequate

Mendeley uses the CSL style library to format. There are around 7,000 CSL styles for various journal titles. While this sounds impressive, most styles have only 4-5 templates available, therefore, the 16 reference types, in reality, turn into 4-5! Also, these templates treat reference data as the same for every kind of resource and often led to inaccuracies. For example, a journal article is assumed to have a volume and issue number. There are many instances when issue numbers are not used, and volume numbers get replaced with a season (e.g., Spring). The format for these different kinds of journal numbering causes errors.

3. First, Consecutive and Subsequent not catered for

All CSL styles have the first template and a ‘Short’ template. This shortened template is used for both consecutive and subsequent formatting. This creates errors for many styles where consecutive citations differ to subsequent citations.

4. Multi-volume titles and abbreviations are missing

A range of styles require the need to include multi-volume titles and abbreviations. There is no field to capture this data, rendering such references inaccurate.

5.  All independent reference managers must interface with MS Word

Interfacing any two solutions is always problematic. Recent posts on Mendeley’s facebook page suggest that their support for integration is lacking. Researchers waste extensive amounts of time formatting, reformatting and correcting reference data. Technology advances have been fantastic over the past 10 years, yet the solutions fail to deliver modern tools to researchers.

Compare reference types

 

ComWriter has pledged ‘to eliminate referencing hurdles‘. Here are five resons to make the switch:

1. A broad range of reference types including articles forthcoming and books with mult-volume titles (see image)

2. Reference data is examined and alternate outputs provided; especially for journal articles

3. Footnote references provided for first, consecutive and subsequent

4. Write-and-cite in the one platform

5. The entire article (text & citations) is formatted automatically (using a pre-defined style guide), leaving authors more time to concentrate on content and argument

 

About the author: Dr Linda Glassop is a published author and the founder of ComWriter, a cloud-based writing application for students and researchers. Linda has made it her mission to make writing to academic standards easy.

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A bibliographic tool for the modern information age

We live in an information era, yet the tools for writing and publishing seem to be reminiscent of a bygone print era. Central to academic writing is the use of bibliographic tools. Bibliographic software falls into two main camps:

Camp 1: EndNote, RefWorks.

EndNote was the first bibliographic tool to emerge on the market, and is now the most used; and also the oldest. Being such an old product, EndNote is plagued with problems:

  1. It must be connected with Word (itself an old product).
  2. It has only 53 reference types that haven’t kept pace with the information age. For example, just about everything can be sourced Online, but endnote only has a few ‘electronic’ resources.
  3. As a result of 2, references need to be edited, or manually written. For example, Endnote does not have: journal article forthcoming, book volume, and it has difficulty formatting when the journal article does not have an Issue, or uses a date as the Volume.

Camp 2: Zotero, Mendeley and other CSL products.

These bibliographic tools are, generally speaking, free to use, and have emerged based on the Open Source community which has indeed improved their popularity. However, these tools only have 36 reference types (what is deemed to be the main one’s used), and therefore these tools have the same problems as Camp 1. Free does not mean they will be more accurate. While they have around 6500 style sheets, less accurate does not really make up for the diversity of journal formats. It still means loss of productivity for academic writers.

New Platform: ComWriter

ComWriter has redesigned the reference types and has 120 to choose from, including a large range of legal references. By re-writing the reference structure, ComWriter has brought reference data management up-to-date to meet the needs of the modern information age (see image below):

  1. ComWriter is a word processor and bibliographic tool combined, so there are no interfaces to manage.
  2. 120 reference types provides a wide array of options, and this means data will be formatted exactly right; e.g., Handbook, Book Volume, Journal article forthcoming.
  3. Every reference has a Source tag nominating whether the reference is ‘Hardcopy, Online, or Database’. This allows each resource to be customized based on its source. Effectively this means there are 360 reference types.
  4. Journal references can be unpacked to determine if the metadata has: volume only, issue only, volume & issue, volume as a year or season, no volume or issue; and then format the reference as is appropriate saving the need to edit or write the citation manually.
  5. Disciplines forgotten by the other tools now have something they can rely on, with reference types such as: Performance, International material (Treaty, UN document), Archival material.
  6. The flexibility of this tool enables the reference template Settings to be set for each of the 120 reference types. This means the output can be further customized to enhance accuracy.

While ComWriter, a startup that is barely 3  months old, still has a way to go in terms of incorporating all the available databases (they have hooked up WorldCat and Wikipedia, with CrossRef to follow soon), the accuracy of their output across the board will make academic writing a whole lot less stressful.

ComWriter Library

ComWriter Library

It is true to say, that the emergence of online publishing will eventually replace the need for reference data that was typical of a Print era. However, online publishing, with links to reference resources, is still a few years away (change in the education and publishing industry generally moves slow).

 

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5 reasons to get rid of Word if you do academic writing

Academic writing is difficult enough without the ‘tools’ making life harder. MS Word is 22 years old! Any system this old would generally be called a ‘legacy’ system. Here are my top reasons for replacing Word.

1. Referencing does not work

The referencing function in MS word is very simple, and generally does not format to academic standards. If you use bibliographic software (e.g., Zotero, Endnote, Mendeley) then you have to manage a plug in, which often fails. Also, the reference types used in these applications (they are pretty much all the same) are mostly ‘not quite right’ forcing you to have to edit the reference in Word. This means you need to (a) know the intricate details of academic referencing, and (b) allow sufficient time for re-formatting.

2. Contents and captions must be re-numbered constantly

Move an image or add headings requires the user to re-number the caption label (for images), or ‘update’ the table of contents when new headings are added. This constant annoyance means continually checking what you are writing, wasting valuable writing time.

3. Formatting often takes longer than writing

Aside from the above two issues, headers & footers, page numbers, bullet alignment, often can get ‘out of whack’, and if you do not know how to manage Word Styles, then formatting can take longer than actually writing.

4. Collaboration requires cut-and-paste assembly

You cannot write collaboratively using MS Word. Which means if you are working on a group project, someone has to take charge to be the cut-and-paste assembler. This person then ends up with all the formatting to do. When it is finally assembled, the  text can seem disjointed because the members have used different writing language, and  then one person needs to edit to fix it up so that it reads ‘as if’ written by one person.

5. Version control is manual

If you are writing over an extended period of time, or writing a large document, then you need to keep different versions of your history ‘just-in-case’ of a system crash, or a hard-drive fail, or because you want to retrieve something you wrote last week.

ComWriter logoThree reasons to use ComWriter for academic writing:

  1. It is in the cloud, saves every 30 seconds, stores history (3-in-1 reason)
  2. Reference and text formatting are done automatically, including numbering, after you hit ‘export’
  3. I can spend more time on researching and writing content, thereby improving the quality of my work

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