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Why Mendeley has proved my ideal research companion – an author’s story

PhD candidate Fidele Tugizimana relies on Mendeley for a multitude of tasks from storing and searching papers to adding citations to his own articles

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Fidele Tugizimana has been an Advisor for the cloud-based research management and social collaboration platform, Mendeley, since 2012. The Advisors are a select group of enthusiastic power users who act as official representatives at their universities or institutions. In this article, Fidele explains how he uses Mendeley to support him in his research work.

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As a student or researcher, what do you do when you have more than 1,000 articles to study, because each has relevant information for your research? How do you keep such a large number of articles organized so that you can easily search and read them - and save time?

In 2010, when I was writing up a report for a mini-research (done as part of my BSc Honours Biochemistry program), I faced these questions. Then I came across Mendeley as a free reference manager. I enthusiastically learned how to use it and since then I have found it a wonderful, effective and fruitful experience. Here I outline a few specific and practical points that make Mendeley an invaluable research tool.

Literature management

I am in Life Sciences (Biochemistry) and my research is a metabolomics approach to investigating host-pathogen interactions. Metabolomics has emerged as a powerful and effective way to interrogate cellular biochemistry at the global level. In simplified terms, a metabolomics study (in Life Sciences) involves a large number of different stages from experimental design to biological interpretation of the outputs.

Each step has sub-steps and each has its own demands and challenges. All these stages require literature inputs in one way or the other and you end up with a large volume of articles. This brings me back to the point I started with: literature management for research.

With Mendeley, searching, reading, keeping the articles organized, sharing papers, referencing, etc. has been an easy part of my research. I have created a library with folders that relate to specific themes or aspects of the research (e.g. Biochemistry in general and cell defense response). Articles in the folder can be sorted by:

  • Author
  • Article title
  • Year of publication
  • Journal
  • Date the article was uploaded

Having articles stored in thematic folders - and an easy way of sorting the articles in those folders - saves time when searching for a particular paper or information related to a specific aspect of my research.

Mendeley is academic-friendly: you can annotate and highlight, search as you type, etc. (Figures 1, 2 and 3). With a click of the mouse I can easily recall any annotation/comments I made while reading and any important information I read in an article, despite thousands of papers in my library.

Figure 1: It is possible to search all documents for specific terms.

Figure 2: It is also possible to search individual articles for specific terms.

Figure 3: The functionality allows you to annotate articles.

Simplifying citations

Alongside the training they offer, academic institutions seek and find answers to questions and then communicate the insights gained to the scientific community and the world. Publication is thus a key component of research, which is reflected in the phrase "publish or perish".

Preparing a manuscript for publication inevitably comprises citation of articles. Journals have different referencing styles and it can be a time consuming task, with a great chance of human error, to work through the references in the manuscript before submission. From my experience, this is when Mendeley comes in handy: easy insertion of citations (click, search and highlight papers to cite), availability of diverse referencing styles and the ability to easily change those styles according to that recommended or required by the journal (see Figures 4 and 5); Mendeley has made such a critical task an easy one for me.

Figure 4: It is easy to insert citations.

Figure 5: You can also insert bibliographies at the click of a button.

Benefits of an online profile

Mendeley is not only a literature management tool, the Mendeley web interface (online profile) provides a research network platform to manage papers online, discover research trends and statistics and connect to like-minded researchers across the globe. With this online profile, I can access my (synchronized) library everywhere - PC-phone-iPad. This makes the reading practical as far as time management is concerned. Furthermore, with the cloud storage, I am assured that my entire library - as long as it is synchronized regularly - is safe even if my PC or storage device runs into technical problems. 

* If you would like to apply for the Mendeley Advisor program, you can find out more on Mendeley.com

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Author biography

Fidele Tugizimana (from Rwanda) is a PhD candidate (under the supervision of Professor Ian Dubery) in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), in South Africa. Since 2007, he is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society (outstanding academic achievements). After the completion of a B.Phil. degree in Philosophy (magna cum laude, Urbaniana University, Rome 2004), he started his scientific journey in 2006, enrolling in BSc Biochemistry-Chemistry at the University of Johannesburg. In 2012, he completed his MSc in Biochemistry (cum laude) and received the award of the best master's in Biochemistry of the year 2012 at UJ. Some of the journals he has published in include South African Journal of Science, Molecular Plant Pathology, Journal of Analytical Methods in Chemistry, PloS One, Chromatographia and Molecules.

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