With my research project this summer fast approaching I have been collecting articles, writing proposals, and making bibliographies. I tested out a few different ways to organize my data. I wanted a centralized location where I could store related notes, hyperlinks, PDFs, citation information, or anything else I might come across. I love Dropbox, so that was an obvious venue for syncing the data I collected. However, that required that I engineer a storage convention that would allow me to organize all of the stuff I collected. I stumbled across Seth Brown's ideas for file naming conventions and found it interesting. I'm not sure that I have a enough data to justify such an exhaustive system, though, and having timestamps in front of file names can make them bulky and difficult to read. I'm still considering adopting a system like this in the future as my file system expands.

My research mentor offered to purchase EndNote, a citation management system, to help me construct bibliographies. Being the open-source nerd that I am, I naturally looked for free, open-source alternatives and stumbled upon Zotero. I was pleasantly surprised. Zotero helps you collect information, organize it, and instantaneously construct a bibliography. It works on Amazon, PubMed, certain peer-reviewed journals, and other sites with a Chrome extension! I just click one button and the article is immediately stored and a citation is generated. I can add full text PDF attachments or simply click on the item to return to its source. It's search function looks for file names as well as in text (yes, even in PDF) key words. It stores information about when the item was added, so no need for bulky timestamps. In fact, you can select the folder and go to Tools > Create Timeline to generate an interactive timeline of all the articles and their publish dates. Wow!

Want Android integration? It will cost you $4-5, but it is so worth it. Take a look at Zandy (a Zotero collection browser) and Scanner for Zotero (which allows you to scan item barcodes into Zotero in real life). Want a citation at the library? Pull out your Scanner for Zotero and scan the barcode... done. You can take notes on items in your collections using Zotero's editor (I use QuickCursor for vim integration) or you can store related text files in your collection and double click to open. All my project notes, papers, abstracts, grant applications, emails, voicemails, recorded phone calls, images, graphs, and whatever other project related items I find can be stored in one place and then immediately exported as a bibliography. I am totally geeking out.