Once you’ve done a first literature search and begun finding interesting papers, a crucial step is to save the references you found. You might want to write them down by hand in a notebook, to copy them in a Word document or any other kind of computer file, or even to print the whole article (making sure that its title, authors, page numbers, etc. are clearly visible).
Or you might want to use a reference management software.
All options are valid as long as you keep track of your references and keep them preciously somewhere easily accessible. But the reference management software option does have some advantages that you may want to investigate.
Not only will this piece of software record your references very easily (usually with just a click, though you might want to check each records for errors, just in case), it will also enable you to cite those references when writing your paper in just a few click. No more hair-pulling when trying to write your references in Harvard Style by hand: it does it for you! And if you want to use another reference style after all? It just changes all your citations in one click!
Doesn’t it sound wonderful?
There is one con, though: there is a slight learning curve when it’s your first time using such a software. Nothing insuperable, but it will take you a little bit of getting used to, especially if you’re not super comfortable with the idea of trying out new software.
Also, there are tons of different reference management software on the market. If you’d like to try a reference management software, I recommend:
- That you ask your university if they’re supporting one in particular (your library should be able to help with that, and they might even have a training program or materials on this particular software);
- Or that you begin with a free one to have a look and decide if you’d like to pursue this:
The end game is: they all have more or less the same features. So just choose the one that looks more appealing to you (“my mates use it”, “it’s pretty!”, “it has a cool name”… are all valid reasons!). And stay tuned: I will talk more about them later on!