Referencing rage – EndNote vs. Mendeley (and RefWorks)

I officially started my PhD a month ago and was faced with the dilemma of which reference manager to use.

Fight of the reference managers: Mendeley vs. RefWorks vs.Endnote

I first came across Mendeley when writing up my undergraduate dissertation. It was the first manager I’d used, it was free to download and extremely easy to pick up so it served me well for my 10,000 word report. So far so good.

I started my MRes the next year, which involved 3 lab dissertations and 3 library dissertations in 12 months, so I definitely needed a good reference manager on my side. This is when I encountered RefWorks. My university promoted it during my induction week and I liked that I could reference from multiple computers. However, before handing in my first project RefWorks did a classic deadline night crash leaving me panicking at 1am and wasting a good hour figuring out how to transfer the backup file to Mendeley.

I vowed I would never leave Mendeley again…but here I am.

There are two main reasons I’m leaving Mendeley:

  1. There is only 2GB of cloud storage available with a free account. This was enough for my undergraduate and Master’s degree dissertations but definitely not for my entire thesis. There is of course the option of buying more space and I’m not against this. It’s just as a PhD student watching the pennies I could really do with not having to pay extra for a service my university is already paying for from another provider.
  2. EndNote is everywhere! EndNote is pre-installed on my university P.C., my supervisors use it, the only training provided by the University is with EndNote, other PhD students I’ve spoken to are using it…you get the picture. It’s just too much of a hassle for me to use a different platform. Though EndNote is promoted at my current university, I am able to download Mendeley desktop to my university computer easily.

I have to say switching to Endnote is not as bad as I thought it would be, but it’s not great either. Here’s a summary of my praises and gripes:

  • My favourite feature is the location of PDFs from behind paywalls i.e. when I’m on a University PC or remote desktop I can just capture the reference in my browser and let Endnote Desktop find and store the PDF later. Mendeley can’t do this at the moment, no doubt it will be able to in time, but capturing the PDFs manually can get annoying.
  • Mendeley is a joy to look at and use, Endnote really makes me feel like I’m doing work. I do not appreciate the retro look and feel of Windows ’95. It’s also slow pretty clunky when using the pdf viewer, something Mendeley does seamlessly. Seriously Reuters, you can’t afford to give it an update with the amount of licensing money you’re getting?!
  • Where is EndNote’s Android compatibility?! It really annoys me that Thomson Reuters have been stalling on this FOR YEARS. Mendeley has perfectly good Android apps created through it’s application programming interface (API). SORT IT OUT.

So, at the moment, I’m reluctantly using EndNote. The university is already paying for the software, with enough cloud storage to last my entire PhD and I can receive support and share files with my group easily. I have read about the horror stories of thesis drafts going crazy and references deleting themselves, I’m just hoping that leaving them unformatted while writing large drafts will save me from another late night stress-fest. Though rest assured you will see another blog from me if this is not the case!

Why isn’t there one good reference manager….WHY?! 

referencing rage

Referencing rage

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4 Responses to Referencing rage – EndNote vs. Mendeley (and RefWorks)

  1. Thanks for writing this. The Mendeley team reads every workflow related post we come across, as they are all extremely valuable (especially the negative ones) 😉 I imagine we should be able to resolve both the issues you have with Mendeley this year.

  2. neurorach says:

    Great to know this post has been useful. I’m sure I’d never get a response from anyone at EndNote! I look forward to Mendeley’s improvements, maybe I’ll be switching back before I have to write up…!

  3. Pingback: The PhD Chronicles – 1 Month In | NeuroRach

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