January 2010

Reading and Managing Your Research Literature

If you are a graduate student in the field of education, you are probably assigned to read hundreds of papers a term (considering you are enrolled into multiple courses). This must be hard, especially considering that the goal of the reading is to extract relevant and interesting ideas out of this literature and to make them your own – not only to be able to adopt them, but also to adapt them to the problems you are trying to solve. So here is another area, where educational technology made a huge difference. I am talking about a Bibliography Database called “EndNote” (


When I read a paper, I immediately file it into the database. Endnote allows automatic filing, but I do not use it – I file it by hand so I make sure I read the paper. EndNote also has a field called “Comments”. There I put how the paper is relevant to what I am trying to do. I also use the Abstract field where I either copy an Abstract from a paper (if I have a digital version), or summarize it in a few words. I also make sure to entery key words. EndNote is an amazing resource. Imagine that you read 10 papers a week.  After a month you have your own database. Then when you write you paper, entering the citations from EndNote is very easy. So no more cards or other means of remembering what you read. You will enjoy it and it will change your research life.

Note, there are other databases. I know  of a few. I chose to use EndNote and I like it, but you might want to explore other databases as well. This will be certainly the money well spend.

And if you are wondering, why I put it under “Educational Technology”, then my justification is that this software helps you organize your readings, analyze them and retrieve them easily. Isn’t it a process that all learners are engaged in?

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