CiteULike Does Not Care About Your OS

This is another post that’s not exclusively Linux related.

It’s about capturing academic articles across different machines and OSs.

I did a roundup of some citation management tools a few weeks back. Ultimately, I decided to use CiteULike.

Screenshot of CiteULike

Since then, I’ve been using it to keep track of articles and it’s been working pretty well for me.

CiteULike is a bookmarking tool for academic articles. Rather than just capturing URLs, though, it also captures article metadata, allowing you to export your articles into a citation format, like Chicago or MLA. The citations usually need to still be cleaned up, but it’s easier than starting from scratch.

CiteULike also represents a way to organize your articles, allowing users to tag them.

I’ve mostly been using CiteULike for its citation functionality, but it’s also been very helpful in keeping my work organized.

Despite the sick amount of time I spend online, or perhaps because of it, I have trouble reading PDFs on the screen, and most academic articles are PDFs. So my workflow is to skim an article and then, if it seems like it might be useful for what I’m working on, I print it and then capture it in CiteULike. So I have the hard copy to work from and mark up, but the citation online. Plus, if I lose or misplace a printed article, it’s not too hard to find again.

What’s nice about this workflow, though, is that I can grab stuff whenever I’m near a computer, but even if I’m not near a printer. For example, I can find some articles, tag them with “printthis” or something like that, and then, the next time I’m near a printer, I just let them go and re-tag them with something more useful.

And it really pays off when it’s time to export citations. Even though the citations aren’t perfect, they’re easy enough to fix up and work with, saving me time and mental energy.

CiteULike isn’t great about pulling in metadata, so about half of the time, I export citations out of a subscription service as BibTex, a markup language, and then import the BibTex into CiteULike. It’s not as convenient as using a browser button, but it’s easier than crafting a citation by hand. But CiteULike also lets you search other people’s holdings, assuming they’ve made them public, so if someone else already has the metadata imported, you can just copy their work with the click of a button.

CiteULike also lets you upload files to attach to your records, which is a nice way to make sure you don’t lose hard-to-find material if your local computer crashes (although I’m not as conscientious about this as I should be).

CiteULike is very convenient, and because it’s browser-based, I can use it across OSs. There are actually a few cross-platform citation management clients (and quite a few Linux-only ones), but those are only helpful on computers where I have installation privileges. The convenience of CiteULike is that it’s something I have full access to no matter where I’m working.

If you find yourself doing academic research fairly regularly, try CiteULike for your next project. You’ll be shocked how convenient it is having everything in one place. Manila folders full of articles are nice, but virtual folders have their uses, also.

A final note: CiteULike has some recommendation functionality based on articles you capture. I’ve never used it but I do glance at the recommendations from time to time. It seems like a good idea in theory, but it hasn’t been great for me in practice. Maybe it will improve as my database gets bigger.