Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in STEM
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5.2.4 Organising information in a reference management tool

Literature searches require you to read and keep track of many more resources than you will actually need for your SoTL inquiry.

It is important to keep track of the resources that you read as part of your literature review. You may wish to use a reference management tool (also known as bibliographic management software) to manage your reference list. Bibliographic management software tools provide a way to collect and save details of the resources you found relevant for your SoTL inquiry. These tools can then generate references, reference lists and bibliographies in a variety of referencing styles. If you already use a bibliographic management tool as a part of your other research activities, you may choose to use that tool for your SoTL inquiries.

There are many such tools available, which may be discussed in the library resources pages on bibliographic management of your institution. The OU Library page on Bibliographic management [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]  will help you understand some of the main tools available.

There are several popular open-source reference management tools, with active support communities such as Mendeley, Endnote Web and Zotero. They all provide a free version with limited storage.

Typically, a reference management tool provides a repository into which you can store the details of each resource that you have read (authors, title and so on), your notes on the document, and, if you wish, a copy of the document itself. You can also add tags and keywords that you think will be helpful with the process of critical reading.

Where the repository is online, the tool often allows you to share your collections with other users. In addition, in many cases, the reference sharing service will enable you to download many of the necessary citations from the database.

Most tools also provide a plugin to Word to make inserting citations in your text and generating the references section much easier. The exact mechanism varies between tools, but once you would like to generate a list of references, the tool will then generate such a list with the citations and reference list formatted according to the referencing style you select. If your institution uses a standard style such as APA then this will be included in the tool; however, if your institution uses a bespoke referencing style then it may not be available in the tool.

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