Mendeley: Free Reference Manager, Collaboration Tool, & Online Catalog of Millions of Documents

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false] What do you get when you combine reference manager software, PDF viewing and organization tools, a platform for collaborative research, and an online catalog of millions of documents?  You get Mendeley.

Mendeley (which I heard about through the CHMINF listserv) combines free reference manager software with “the world’s largest crowd-sourced research catalog with over 34 million papers.” Users can sign up for a free account and download the Mendeley Desktop software.  You can also access your document library directly on the Mendeley website, or you can search through a database that includes millions of document citations and some full-text, which can be automatically added to your reference library.  Mendeley may not be the ideal location for patent searchers to store and organize their prior art references, due to security concerns, but the site is an ideal reference management tool for students and researchers.  Prior art searchers can utilize the Mendeley catalog as another source for searching non-patent literature prior art.

After the jump, learn about the reference manager, document viewing and organization features, collaboration tools, and online catalog available through Mendeley!

Reference Manager

After creating a free account on Mendeley, users can download the Mendeley Desktop software.  According to the website, reference management features for Mendeley include:

  • A Word Plugin that can be downloaded through Mendeley Desktop and allows users to create bibliographies in Microsoft Word.
  • Citation styles for over 1000 journals in a community managed database.
  • Flexible formatting – Hanging indents, the use of “Ibid.”, author disambiguation.
  • Ability to share bibliographies in a private group, and any member can add or edit cited references.

Users can import documents to their personal “libraries” through the desktop software or directly on the website.  The Mendeley website describes how documents can be imported in a variety of formats, including BibTeX, RIS and EndNote™ XML files, and users can also choose to “watch” folders on their computers (documents added to that folder are automatically added to the Mendeley library).  The website also mentions that users get 1 GB of free online storage, and documents can be viewed through desktop, web, or mobile access.

The desktop reference management software available through Mendeley.

Organization, Annotation, and Collaboration Tools

The Mendeley website also offers additional organization, annotation, and collaboration tools, which are described in further detail on the website:

  • Annotated PDFs – Ability to open PDFs in multiple tabs, add annotations and highlights to PDFs, share annotations in a private group, and save/print annotations
  • Organize PDFs – Users can identify recently added papers, add favorites, and store PDFs in multiple folders. PDFs are automatically scanned to identify author, title, journal, etc., and users can keyword search all files (in full text) or navigate through fields like Author, Title, Publisher and Journal.
  • Share Documents – Users can share documents through groups on Mendeley, and group members can see papers/folders added to the group on their newsfeed.

Research Papers Catalog

Besides the document and reference management features of Mendeley, users can also search through a collection of over 34 million paper citations.  The full text of all documents isn’t available, but some documents are open-access and can be viewed freely through links to outside websites.  Users can access this catalog under the “Papers” tab on the Mendeley website, and search options include:

  • A quick search (keyword search form).
  • Option to browse most popular papers.
  • Option to browse latest papers.
  • Option to view papers organized by disciplines.  Each discipline page includes a discipline summary, a list of popular tags, a list of sub-disciplines, a list of popular papers, and a list of popular groups.
  • An advanced search form allows users to search within certain fields (title, author, abstract, MeSH terms), filter by document type, filter within a publication date range, and filter by academic discipline.

After conducting a search, results are listed 20 to a page, with the option to refine the search to open access articles only.  The full query is displayed in the quick search form (including search syntax for any limitations added in the advanced search form).  Each result lists basic citation information and the options to save the reference to your personal Mendeley library or the option to view “related research.”

Search results on the Mendeley Research Papers catalog.

In the full record view for the document, basic bibliographic data is listed, along with any available links to the document on outside websites (like SpringerLink).  If a full PDF version of the document is available, it will be displayed in a thumbnail view that can be expanded to a full view of the PDF document (the full PDF can be saved to the Mendeley library).  The full record for each document also displays related research,  related full-text papers, readership statistics,  tags, and the option to cite the document through a variety of formats.

The full record and link to a PDF on Mendeley.

The full record and link to a PDF on Mendeley.

How Useful is Mendeley for Prior Art Searchers?

As a reference management tool, Mendeley may be of limited use to prior art searchers due to security and privacy concerns.  The site doesn’t appear to have any sort of HTTP Secure connection, and the FAQ section of the website mentions that “Mendeley only aggregates document details and statistics from the individual users’ accounts anonymously.”  The Mendeley reference management tool is probably secure enough for students working on academic projects, but prior art searchers conducting searches on confidential material will probably want to use a more secure reference management system than Mendeley.

The Mendeley Research Papers Catalog may be a useful addition to the free resources utilized for NPL prior art searches.  Although full text PDFs aren’t available for every result, the catalog does attempt to provide links to full-text document records on third-party websites whenever possible.  If you can’t find a citation on Google Scholar while searching for NPL prior art, you may want to give Mendeley a try.

Do you utilize Mendeley for reference management or NPL prior art search purposes?  Tell us about your experiences in the comments!
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This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

2 Responses

  1. We use Mendeley to store and display district court decisions about invalidity contentions for our blog. It works well for organizing the decisions and PDF links. At some point, hopefully, the WP plug-in will allow us to output case summaries/abstracts in some way.

    I also personally use it to store random prior art that I come across. There’s no issue of confidentiality in this use-case because the prior art has no immediate purpose, other than being stored under a belief that the date and descriptions are good enough for the art to be useful in the future.

    Check out how we use it on our blog if you like:

  2. […] Mendeley: Free Reference Manager, Collaboration Tool, & Online Catalog of Millions of Documents ( The Intellogist Blog) […]

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