Monday, July 9, 2012

Mendeley - Your Web 2.0 Personal Research Assistant


WEB 2.O TOOL EVALUATION:  Mendeley

LOCATION ON THE WEBhttp://mendeley.com

CATEGORY:  Productivity Tool

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:
Mendeley is a web 2.0 tool for researching topics on the internet and then subsequently annotating the collections for the pertinent data needed for a report.
The program interfaces with a multitude of internet scholarly databases for easy access on a wide array of studies.  This interface includes a plug in where the documents found within these databases can be loaded into the user’s personal library with the click of one button.  This streamlined technology plus the ability to create user specific folders for archiving documents creates a very efficient means of handling research information. 
In addition, the program enables efficient cut and paste creation of notes for a highly productive process in mining the information that you need for your specific research project. 
Lastly, citations in all of the major formats are quickly created in Microsoft Word through a one click menu button so the user doesn’t need to know the specifics of each citation format. 
With Mendeley, productivity is obtained without a premium as all these features are available in the free version.  Research is made easy for the layman or the experienced professional.

PREREQUISITES TO USAGE:
1.      Set up a free user account
2.      You will need to set up a profile but it doesn’t have to be completed in order to start using the program.  The benefits of the profile are simply so Mendeley can recommend papers and people associated with your interests.
3.      For mobile applications simply go to the app store and download the application onto your iPhone or iPad.

RESOURCES REQUIRED:
Access to a computer and the internet.
Data that you want to import into the software or ability to search databases for research publications (note this is optional as you can search the web from your library within Mendeley to retrieve articles on the web).

SKILLSETS REQUIRED:
Ability to operate a computer.

STEP BY STEP ACCESS:
1.      Log in
1.      Upon entering the program you will be directed to My Library where your personal research folders are located.
2.      You may now start your search by placing your topic of interest in the search box located in the upper right hand corner of the screen.
2.      For an introduction to this program go to this video link (created with PowerPoint and Adobe Premiere Elements 10). 
Insert picture of my library

TOOL EXAMPLE:
Since the example I have is my personal research website, I have prepared a highlight video, (created with Adobe Captivate) so that you can see the unique productivity of the program.  This will also demonstrate how I am using the program. 
video

If you would like to start using it for your research projects, go to the following link:  http://mendeley.com

POTENTIAL TEACHING APPLICATION:
This tool can aid with instruction on how to research a topic and streamline thoughts in order to write a report.  Since most undergraduate coursework requires writing either a literature review or technical paper, this application would be ideal for either.  Mendeley would assist in organizing the information and reinforce the concept of initially acquiring research followed by analyzing the article to create annotations of the relevant information for a specific research assignment.
Since Mendeley has an extensive database and utilizes a plethora of outside search engines, it would be ideal for a variety of fields of study.
With the high usage of computer technology in K-12 education, I can envision the use of this tool in grades 7-12.  The research may not be as extensive as in higher education, but writing papers are analytical thinking in research are still important skillsets to acquire.

TEACHING ADVANTAGES:

EASY CITATIONS WITH MICROSOFT WORD PLUG IN
When learning how to create literature reviews or technical reports one of the hardest elements to master is the formatting of the document.  Each research type has distinctively different ways of presenting the same information.  While this program doesn’t provide the overall template for the final products formatting, it does create the citations with the touch of a button.  This is especially helpful if you are creating papers for an English class and an engineering class where the citations are APA and IEEE, respectively.
One step citations



ANNOTATION OF DOCUMENTS IS EASY ON A COMPUTER
This is the most productive element of this program.  In case you missed it earlier, the highlight video, (created with Adobe Captivate), demonstrates how this works.  Basically, you can annotate notes from each of your documents in your library.  This annotation process is simple and allows the researcher to focus on the elements of the document that relate specifically to their research topic.  This enables the analytical thinking process and facilitates an easier way to organize your thoughts when it’s time to write your paper.  This is the jewel of the program!
Annotations allow organization of key concepts for writing 


RESEARCH SITES ARE SUGGESTED TO THE USER BASED UPON SUBJECT
For those users who are unfamiliar with the wide range of scholarly databases, Mendeley enables quick and easy searches on topics from the My Library view of the online program.  When starting the research process, the biggest step is getting started.  Once other sources are identified then it gets easier to follow the path to more detailed information regarding the user’s research topic.  This program facilitates this experience and simultaneously exposes the user to the research process.
Research recommendations


TEACHING DISADVANTAGES

NO EDUCATIONAL TEMPLATES FOR FORMATS OF RESEARCH PAPERS
Mendeley focuses on the research portion of the process and doesn’t provide formatting for multiple writing styles.  In this sense, the program only provides partial coverage of the entire process.  the program could be greatly enhanced by adding this information to create a single source reference site.  In the interim, the best resource that I have found for the writing formats is located at the following link:

MOBILE DEVICES DON’T ALLOW ANNOTATION OF DOCUMENTS
While Mendeley is available on iPad and iPhone, the annotation capability is not enabled in these devices.  The program could be made more robust with this functionality with the increased uses of these devices by students.


RECOMMENDATION
So far, this product exceeds my expectations and performs better than the more popular programs such as ResearchGate, Refworks and Endnote.  I would recommend this to any student or faculty member who needs to perform research on a single or multiple projects.  The benefit is in the ability to organize and annotate notes for easy reference from articles you have researched.   This functionality enables quick access to the information you need as well as streamlines the process of organizing your thoughts.  This program is the BEST OF CLASS!

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