I Know It’s Here Somewhere: 5 Tools to Help You Organize Information

It’s the new year.  Time to get organized.  Citations (aka references) illustrate one type of information that serves us best when organized and managed. Researchers and students often need to collect and store a body of literature related to their area of interest, but they are not the only ones.  Knowledge workers across the board seek to keep abreast of what’s happening in their field or maintain a library of references that inform their work.

Enter the citation manager.

EndNoteRefWorksMendeleyZotero, and Flow are five tools for organizing libraries of literature.  EndNote and RefWorks are subscription or fee-based, and since they are fairly widely known, we’re going to look more closely at the remaining three products.  All are free or have a free version.

logo-mendeleyDownload Mendeley to your desktop and/or mobile device for free, add PDFs if you have them, and you’re ready to collaborate, annotate, cite, and organize.  Mendeley lets you search across the full text of all your papers and offers 2GB of online storage.  In addition, you can generate bibliographies and share with your network.

zotero Official word from the Zotero website:  Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.  Zotero has been around since 2006 and is currently a project of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and the New Media.  One of the features that differentiates Zotero is the ability to add web content to your personal library in one click.

Flow is a new product from ProQuest that offers free reference management to researchers (in educational institutionsProQuest Flow) and students.  Flow comes from the team that developed RefWorks, so if you’re already a RefWorks user, you may transition easily to Flow.  This product seeks to bring the whole document management process online “embracing an all digital workflow.”

Comparison Charts

For those readers who would like to compare citation manager features,Wikipedia and the University of Wisconsin offer some handy charts. Note that Flow is too new to be included, however, they have created their own chart.

How can we know what we know? There’s a book for that.

You may not know what you know, unless your organization has undertaken some sort of knowledge management (KM) initiative.  KM typically means an active and intentional effort to track and deliver information (knowledge/data) to workers in order to advance organizational objectives. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations: The View from Inside co-author Cynthia Shamel, forthcoming Spring 2014 from IGI Global

Peter Drucker, in his book Management Challenges for the 21st Century, states that “The most valuable asset of a 21st-Century institution, whether business or nonbusiness, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity”. Furthermore, ”Enterprises and individuals will have to learn what information they need and how to get it.  THEY WILL HAVE TO LEARN TO ORGANIZE INFORMATION AS THEIR KEY RESOURCE”. Drucker must have thought this was pretty important.  The all caps are his.

Where do we begin?  Experts agree that the first step in launching a knowledge management initiative is the knowledge assessment or audit. Through this process the enterprise comes to understand what knowledge or information resources they have, where they come from, who uses them, what’s missing, and much more.  Grounded in this way, it’s possible to propose and evaluate options for improving knowledge management.

Overwhelmed yet?  Don’t be.  There are numerous experts and resources that can help you or your organization methodically and incrementally address knowledge management issues.  One step at a time and gaps are filled, barriers overcome, and resources shared.

One of the newest and most practical books on KM will be published soon. Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations: The View from Inside takes a comprehensive look at KM through the experience of KM professionals who have “been there, done that”. Editor Ulla de Stricker brought together seven experts who contributed wisdom and guidance from their collective experience of nearly 150 years addressing knowledge management challenges.

KM book coverCindy Shamel, author and editor of this newsletter, contributed the chapter titled “Planning for Knowledge Management: Conducting a Knowledge Assessment”, drawing on real life examples to outline best practices and lessons learned. 

For more information, please feel free to contact Cindy Shamel.