After a week away on the slopes (literally and metaphorically), I’m back to discuss many things…I’ve decided to roll the last two weeks up in one post and I’ll begin with a referencing programme that I’m new to but I already know it will save me a lot of time and aggravation; Mendeley.
In the past I have chosen to reference my work manually, from the earliest project work as an undergraduate to my MPhil thesis. This was out of a general disdain for Endnote and a perceived lack of alternatives. I also think my experiences with Endnote, which I find terribly non-user friendly and convoluted, put me off even attempting to look for alternatives. So I always opted to keep track of my references myself, either literally by writing them down on a piece of paper or typing them out as I went along. This came with a certain level of comfort, knowing that if I stayed organised nothing could really go wrong and it meant I had a strong knowledge of what I was referencing and where. The trouble is, this method is extremely time consuming, especially for a document the size of an MPhil thesis, because things change and the order of the references changes and doing this all manually is a pain. And no matter how organised you are the potential for error is high.
Mendeley was recommended to my twice in quick succession following the start of my doctoral degree and by people strongly connected with my project – so I thought I should take the leap and give it a go. I’m more than happy I did. The initial setup is quite time consuming, especially if, like me, you already have quite a large library of papers/books to upload and want to get them all uploaded and organised in one go. This took the best part of two days, including standardising the format and altering some information that was wrong when added to the library. Now, though, I can simply add references as I go, these can be downloaded pdfs through to manually added website references, sync the library and use them straight away as I type on any computer where I have the programme set up and linked to Word. Linking to Word and then using within Word is extremely simple and I’m already benefiting from the time saved by this on an upcoming report. Surrey have set up an information sharing system for referencing software and I feel comfortable enough with Mendeley to be part of that support network – you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for help… (remember to include which programme and as much detail of the problem as possible!)
In an attempt to segue into the next topic as seamlessly as possible, it is worth pointing out that Mendeley does not currently have a plugin for Powerpoint and this is a slight annoyance since much of the work I’m likely to present in the next few years is likely to need referencing. In no way is this a major problem, because the likelihood that any list will extend much beyond about 10 is low. This section on sharing research will again be brief, because although presentations will certainly form part of my research the notion that I might be able to share any of them online is a bit of a fantasy – just getting them cleared for speaking at mandatory conferences will be a challenge. This obviously also rules out publishing podcasts or screencasts, however, the latter seems like an extremely useful tool and I may revisit sites Screencast-o-matic and Jing in the future if I end up doing any teaching or lecturing. In terms of rivals to Powerpoint, I can see the appeal, particularly from an anti-monotonous point of view. The main issues here, particularly in my line of work, relate to legacy and compatibility. From browsing some examples on Slideshare, Note & Point and Speaker Deck, however, one thing that has resonated is the need to break away from convention regarding slide design – even if this remains within the confines of Powerpoint!