Reference Management Unlocked! #phdchat #acwri


Source: Imperial College, London

So getting a handle on reference management has been more than a a notion for me. I loved RefWorks when my university had it, but they dropped it at the end of last year, so I never got to really set myself up the way I wanted. I’ve spent this year trying to find my way and have been falling flat on my face the whole time.*  I have finally settled on Sente, with a nod to Zotero for bulk importing & unplanned web clipping. (See more about that here.) I like Sente because it:

  1. Works smoothly with my writing program, Scrivener
  2. Has a great (FREE) iOS app
  3. Provides a TON of storage & sync space (for attachments) with just a $60, one time payment
    • The basic account is FREE and allows an unlimited number of libraries, so long as the number of references stays at 100 or fewer. Sync space for the free license is 250MB.
  4. Has a rather nice annotation feature built right into the iOS and desktop versions
  5. Can export those notes and Scrivener brings them right on into any project, no fuss.
  6. Has its own browser for digging up readings and bring right into its library(ies)
  7. Plays well with Zotero, which is great for bulk importing from the web

As tempting as it is for me to MOVE *ALL* THE REFERENCES over, I’m just going to create a new library for my qualifying exams (#amjdoesquals). That way I can just add things as I’m ready to read them.

*If you would like to read more about the past year (click to expand):

My Reference Management Struggle

Admittedly, I am still searching for a reference management solution. UChicago quit RefWorks after my first year, so I’ve been using Zotero for the past couple of years. I loved it from the start! It has a web-clipper, can drop citations directly into MS Word, and lets me keep entries organized by project/chapter. Sadly, I need to find something else to fit my writing process.

The main reason is that Zotero doesn’t integrate with my writing management program, Scrivener. In order to cite things, I either have to make notes to myself, then go back & insert citations by hand (this takes almost half as long as writing the paper!) or use LibreOffice to talk to RTF Scan (this feature is supposed to work in Word but it doesn’t). I’m just really not a fan of LibreOffice, even as much as MS Word frustrates me but I may still end up trying it for sanity’s sake. At the same time, while ZotPad is great for accessing what’s already stored in Zotero, I don’t like that I can’t pull things into my library from my iPad. I spend a LOT of time on that device and would really like to be able to add references I find.

I wanted to switch to Papers but that’s been incredibly buggy for WAY too many people and the iPad app is apparently terrible, not to mention it’s not compatible with Scrivener, either. I did try Mendeley a few times but it also doesn’t work with Scrivener. The creators of Scrivener did recommend some reference managers, though:

Endnote is compatible but is financially out of the question. I’m just learning about Bookends, but there’s not a mobile version, so I‘m gonna pass. I started playing around with Sente so stay tuned for updates. Sente does have a lot of the same features as Zotero, plus a decent iPad app and annotation capability. That last feature isn’t quite as robust as I’d like, so I turn to other tools, which I discuss in the next section. I also don’t like that I can’t sync my Sente library with Dropbox. I’m thinking I’ll try with Copy but I don’t want that to suddenly fall apart mid-dissertation.

I’ve learned that choosing a reference manager is often a highly individualized process, so check out the comparison charts at Docear & Wikipedia (the entry has several, sortable tables by feature! Some of the details are outdated, though, so be sure to double-check the product websites.) As for my search, I want to settle on something by the time I start studying for qualifying exams (so by mid-June). If ZotPad actually releases the update they’ve been promising, I may be willing to put up with LibreOffice.


So here’s how I fixed everything last night. I hope someone else finds this helpful!

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