Paperpile makes me more productive

One of the first things I tell my new research students is to use a reference management system to help them keep track of the papers they read, and to assist in creating bib files for their bibliography. Most of them use Mendeley, one or two use Zotero. Both do a good job and both are free.

I use neither. I did use Mendeley for several years (and blogged about it a few years ago), but it became slower and slower to sync as my reference collection grew. Eventually it simply couldn’t handle the load. I have over 11,000 papers in my collection of papers, and I was spending several minutes every day waiting for Mendeley just to update the database.

Then I came across Paperpile, which is not so well known as some of its competitors, but it is truly awesome. I’ve now been using it for over a year, and I have grown to depend on it every day to keep track of all the papers I read, and to create my bib files. Continue reading →

Managing research ideas

I received this email today:

Dear Professor Hyndman,
I was wondering if you could maybe give me some advice on how to organize your research process. I am able to search the literature on a certain topic and identify where there is a question to work with. My main difficult is to organize my paper annotations in order to help me to guide my research process, i.e, how to manage the information gathered in those papers to compose and structure a document which can represent the research developed so far.
I have been looking at different tools such scrivener, Qiqqa, papers2, etc but I am not sure if one of these tools would be the right way to go. To be honest I am not even sure a tool would do what I am looking for, not just organize references and annotate pdfs but to get more control of my research process.
I appreciate if I could get your thoughts on this subject.

Continue reading →

Blogs about research

If you find this blog helpful (or even if you don’t but you’re interested in blogs on research issues and tools), there are a few other blogs about doing research that you might find useful. Here are a few that I read.

I’ve created a bundle so you can subscribe to all of these in one go.

Of course, there are lots of statistics blogs as well, and blogs about other research disciplines. The ones above are those that concentrate on generic research issues.

Following authors on Google Scholar

A great new feature has been added to Google Scholar Citations. For those authors who have set up a citations page, it is now possible to get email alerts for any new articles they publish, or for any new citations of their articles. So you can track citations to your own work this way, and stay up-to-date with key authors in your field.

Setting up a Google Citations page is super-easy and was already worth doing. This new functionality is another reason to do it. After all, as researchers we want people to read our stuff, so we might as well make it as easy as possible for people to find what we write.

To set up your Google Citations page, go to

To follow an author, find their citations page and look for the “Follow this author” box at the top right of the page.

Hopefully, Google will add RSS feeds as an option in the future as I’d much rather get alerts that way then by yet more email in my inbox.

Researcher portals

A researcher portal is a website that attempts to list all the publications of a given researcher. Some portals also allow sharing papers, interacting with other researchers, calculating citation statistics, etc. Every researcher wants their work read and cited, so these websites can be useful tools for getting your work noticed. They can also function as a de facto home page if you don’t already have a personal website. Conversely, they can be a good way to find new work by researchers in your field. However, unless a site provides a relatively complete list of your publications, and covers a large proportion of the research community in your discipline, it is of limited value. Continue reading →

Use Mendeley to manage your references

Every researcher collects large numbers of papers, references, and notes, and it is important to have a good system to keep them all organized. For many years I had several thousand papers all numbered and stored in filing cabinets, with a JabRef database providing an index to them.

These days, it’s much easier to have everything stored electronically, and so I have accumulated many pdfs (about 1300 so far) of published articles. But the problem of being able to find something fast is still important.

Mendeley is a free software tool for managing your reference database. It actually solves many problems simultaneously and is likely to become an important part of how I work. Continue reading →

In praise of Dropbox

Every couple of years, a new technology has a big impact on how I work. Gmail was one. My iPhone was another. And I rank Dropbox in the same category.

I get three huge benefits in using Dropbox:

  1. All my files are backed up online. The house can burn down and I know I can still get my files. Also, if I’m away from my desktop or laptop, I can still access my files on my iPhone. Online backup is the only sensible backup strategy.
  2. My two main computers are kept in sync. When I finish work in my uni office, I can go home knowing that everything I’ve done during the day will be already on my home PC when I arrive home. And when I go to my uni office, everything I’ve done on my home PC will already be on my uni PC when I get to work. I never have to think about what files I will need; they will all be there.
  3. Dropbox provides a simple version control system. Other people use services like github and bazaar, but I find them far more complicated than I need. When I edit or delete files, Dropbox keeps previous versions in case I wish to restore them (up to 30 days normally, but forever if you pay a bit more). With a couple of clicks I can rollback to a previous version, or download a previous version and use a file comparison tool to see the changes made since that version.

The best thing is that I get those benefits without any work! Once installed, Dropbox just does its stuff seamlessly in the background.

For up to 2Gb, it is free. I pay $99 per year for 50Gb. If you sign up as a result of this post, you get an additional 250Mb free (and I get another 500Mb — although I’d say all of the above regardless). Available for Windows, Mac or Linux.