Paperless Dissertation 7 – More About Integrating Papers and EndNote

Now that I’ve very briefly covered the core features of EndNote and Papers, it’s time to talk about integrating their functionality. The nice part is that, thanks to the developers of Papers, a plugin exists within the “File” menu allowing quick export of metadata as an EndNote file type (for EndNote 8 and higher). The process really couldn’t be easier.

During the early phases of my dissertation, I spent most of my time collecting, reading, and taking notes on journal articles for my dissertation. Each time I added an article, I would either use Papers’ built-in ability to scan search engines for the article’s metadata (i.e., authors, journal title, year of publication), or type it in myself when no metadata was available. By doing this with each new article or batch of articles, I obviated the need to go back and fill them in later. Basically I was just taking a large task and breaking it into more manageable chunks. I would then export the articles’ information as an EndNote-readable .xml file to my desktop, and then import that file into my EndNote Dissertation Library right away.

This is a good time to issue a heads-up on trusting software to correctly complete tasks for you. As I discovered almost immediately, the metadata that Papers found for me wasn’t always 100% correctly formatted. The most common problem I found was that Journal Titles were shortened. So, the “Journal of Medical Awesomeness” might have been shortened and inserted as “Jour Med Awesome”. This is not an acceptable way to cite a journal. Once I discovered the flaw, correcting it was easy. If the citation was already in EndNote, I would open up the specific citation’s editing window and fix it there. If I had not yet exported it from Papers, I fixed it there. Fortunately, this type of occurrence was not the norm, and correcting each one was a matter of a few seconds of my time. More than worth it for the time that was saved on the back end.

This is also a good time to point out an important fact: you will have to spend some amount of time setting up almost any professional-style application to get it to do what you want. The amount of time you need to spend on this (what I refer to as the “Front End”) is largely dependent upon the complexity of the application and your personal learning curve. I would urge everyone to be patient. Take the time to learn what an application can do for you, and you’re more likely to get a positive experience in the end, one way or the other. Getting an application set up properly to run the way you want can save you an exponential amount of time on the production (the “Back End”) of your project. Trying to set up and learn in bits and pieces as you go might be a waste of time: you might find that you’ve being doing some task manually that the application could have done automatically. Head-slapping and frustration are sure to follow.

Papers and EndNote are extremely powerful applications that can go a long way towards saving you tons of time on the tedium of writing and formatting. Be patient, read the instructions, and take the time on the Front End to learn them. You are almost sure to be rewarded with the gifts of time and increased accuracy.

I’ll end things here, for now. In the next post, I’ll cover some finer points of getting everything singing in the workflow, and maybe some of the nuanced features of Papers and EndNote. There will also be a post (date to be determined) that deals with one ‘experimental’ component of conducting research. In that post, I’ll cover probably the most exciting part of minimizing research-related woes: not even looking for articles. That is, getting the articles to come to you. How nice is that? You might not even have to look for them anymore. At least, not as much.

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