Recently a colleague reminded me about Mendeley. Its name is reminiscent of Mendel or Mendeleev, and probably the scientific allusion is intentional. It’s a fairly new popular academic and scientific research citation and PDF management tool, usable both on your desktop and online. An excellent feature of this tool is that it automatically extracts bibliographic data from a user’s document library and stores that on their computer or in the cloud. It’s free for now and here’s some of the things it can do:

  • Documents that you select can be tagged and easily organized into collections.
  • PDFs can be annotated in an easier fashion that other citation software I’ve used in the past (sorry Endnote & Refworks)
  • Allows for you to automatically import any new PDFs saved into a specific folder that you’ve selected on your computer
  • Search for papers based on what you’re reading
  • Access your papers from anywhere online

Of added interest to researchers, you can also use Mendeley to view trends in your search area, find out how many people are reading & downloading your papers, and also get suggestions on interesting articles that are related to your research.

Documents that you download can be tagged and then organized into collections. PDFs  can be annotated very easily. Free collections that are shared can include PDFs and be shared with up to 10 individuals. This type of sharing might raise some copyright issues, so that’s something to think about.

I also like that after you register for Mendeley, you can create groups based on your interest. These groups are browsable online. Some examples can be viewed in the image below:

Citation Management Tool that allows for organizing and browsing PDFs
Create or Join Groups related to your research area

There are a lot of other citation tools out there, so it will be interesting to see if Mendeley has staying power. The major advantage it offers in my mind is that it makes PDFs so incredibly easy to annotate, organize and share. The downside is that Mendeley is backed by a private company and currently free. Pricing may change, but also these free tools tend to come and go rather easily. Let’s hope Mendeley stays around for a while.

5 thoughts on “Mendeley Citation Tool

  1. I am a JHU graduate and love Mendeley . While on campus I was a Mendeley Advisor and created a JHU group on Mendeley for members of the JHU community ( The group is a place where Mendeley users (1) learn about updates about University and Mendeley events, (2) share tips about how to setup and use Mendeley , and (3) share and discuss research at Johns Hopkins.

    It might be worth a mention on this page.

  2. I also was just reminded of Mendeley today when I saw that they’re supporting they’re among the entities supporting Science Exchange’s “Reproducibility Initiative” I’d be using Mendeley now if a couple years ago our dept. hadn’t started using RefWorks to create a shared ref. collection. Seems like it would be a lot of work to start all over again…?

    I wonder how Mendeley stays in business – do they make money, if so how? They have a decent number of staff and are hiring more people, so they must have some kind of plan so that their investors will eventually make money.

    Also interesting to note that one of their top “Advisors” is Prof. Ralph Etienne-Cummings of JHU ECE & CS:

    1. Hi Lee,

      The CEO of Mendeley has visited JHU probably a year ago and we’ve since taken a look at a new service/product that Mendeley is offering in conjunction with another library vendor about an institutional version of Mendeley. Think of the institutional version of Mendeley much like what you can sign up for today but it offers some additional statistics about the usage, as well as a few other features. They do probably make money on the product by offering group accounts and also different levels of space.

      From the library perspective, it is an interesting model to blend citation management with some of the newer social media functionality. I also like Zotero quite well. Whatever you use, I think a lot of these tools are making it easier to import and export libraries these days, so if you wanted to give one of them a try, it should be possible to import your Refworks collection into Mendeley or any of the other citation tools currently on the market for that matter.

      If you would like any links, please let me know and we’d be happy to send some your way.

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