19 September 2007

Managing a continuously growing journal article collection

As a researcher, you will collect and store an ever-increasing number of electronic journal articles. Where you store them will depend on what piece of software you use to manage your collection.

I use Google Desktop to access my PDF files quickly. I store all of my journal articles in a folder called pdf library. I cannot see how placing PDF files in different folders helps the user - it just slows you down. For example, deciding which folder an article belongs in can be difficult and misleading. Should a Spanish-Catalan bilingual infant study go into an Infant folder, a Bilingual folder, a Spanish folder, a Perception folder, etc.? How will you remember where it was saved when you want to find it? You won't.

Also, it's a very bad idea to keep multiple copies of the same article in different folders. If you edit one copy of a file, the other copies will remain unchanged - not good. If you absolutely insist on storing your PDFs in multiple folders (I can't see why you would), and encounter the dilemma of having an article that belongs in multiple folders, then instead of creating copies of the file, store the file in one place and place shortcuts to it in the other folders. However, I strongly recommend keeping all of your PDFs in the same folder. If you wish to group certain articles together or link specific files to a project(s) that you are currently working on, you can add tags to your PDF files with the excellent research tool Zotero (I am working on a Zotero post as we speak).

I name PDF files using the following template:
Author1, Author2 & Author3 Year Journal keywords.pdf

An example might be Arvaniti & Joseph 2004 JoMGS.pdf, where JoMGS is an abbreviation of Journal of Modern Greek Studies. Most PDFs contain searchable text, meaning that the contents of the PDF file is searchable from Google Desktop. When you scan a printed journal article and create a PDF file, make sure that you use OCR to recognise the text. If for some reason a PDF is not searchable (e.g. poor quality scan; OCR fails to work properly), then include a few keywords before the .pdf extension - in this case I would have included Greek voiced stops, as that summarises what the article is about and will make it easy to find in future searches.

I know that some people in MARCS use Endnote to manage their journal article collection (as well as their citations and references). However, if we focus solely on productivity and speed of retrieval, there is no comparison between Endnote and Google Desktop. By the time the Endnote user launches Endnote (let alone searches for and locates the correct PDF), the Google Desktop user will already be reading the PDF.

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