Many years ago, I had this great idea that I could put references into a database to make it easier for myself. I started planning this database in my head, and then came up with the thought that maybe someone else had already developed such a database.  When I looked – I felt very stupid for thinking that mine was an original idea!!

The first reference management software that I used was Endnote, when I was doing my Masters Thesis. I found it useful, relatively easy to use (but is that because I used it for a long time, therefore was simply familiar with how it worked?) although some technical hitches that I learnt to work around.  I also know that I used only a part of its functionality.

I would still be using it – because I would now never be without such software – except for sponsorship at the Australia and New Zealand History of Education Society conference in Brisbane last year which provided all participants who wanted it with a free license for Citavi. Tony, who had organised the sponsorship, has used it and highly recommended it, saying he found it much better than Endnote.  So I took up the offer, transferred my references across and started using it.  I was still working out how to make the most of it, and found that cite-while-you-write was slower than Endnote, but it did seem to have more functionality – much of which I wasn’t using, once again.  I struggle a little with the idea of grouping in ‘projects’, because I’m not sure how big a project should be to make the most of the functionality – is my whole thesis a ‘project’ or is one paper that I write a ‘project’?  I also see from the Literature Review HQ (23 Things: Thing 16) video that it is one of the least shareable of the reference management software reviewed.

But last week, my computer was stolen. They also took the back-up memory sticks, which would be less than pocket money to thieves but invaluable to me.  So now all my references are gone.  Worse than that, I have been using this software as my note taking system (integrated systems are a good idea, I think), I have lost all my notes from the past lots of years, including all that archive reading.

Now, therefore, I have decisions to make. When I get my new laptop and set up a new system, what will I do?  Some things I will be considering:

  • Cloud or personal storage? How much storage will I need? How will I be backing it up, and where? Which includes how easy this is to do, as no ease of use = no use.
  • How do I share with other collaborators, and how does it link with other software (and social media?) that I use.
  • Ongoing costs, now and in future.