New year’s resolution. Or ‘ways to stay on top of coursework’

Calvin and Hobbes discussing new year's resolutions

Calvin and Hobbes discussing new year’s resolutions

My new year’s resolution is to be more organised with my classwork. It’s not the writing of the assignments that’s the problem, but the organising of the papers and then… references (most students’ nemeses).

On my course, the tutors are kind enough to put up some of the reading materials that they deem ‘essential’ (all within correct copyright usage of course!). This is lovely, but I have to keep going back to our moodle site to check which were for which assignment, and that gets long-winded.

I’ve been using a program – Mendeley (available free for mac and PC), to organise my papers. Essentially, you put all your papers in one folder and tell Mendeley to look at it. Then when you open it it lists all the papers there! Magic! Or at least, it is (often) if you’ve downloaded the newer electronic versions, as all their fields tend to be in the right places (title, authors etc). If it’s a scanned copy, that doesn’t happen and so you have to spend some time fixing those things.

It occurred to me as I was writing my last assignment that I just need to ‘tag’ each paper with the module code and then when I was writing my essay I could look for the module tag and voila! It’s only taken me a year to think of it…

The other magic thing it does, ALSO that I didn’t realise until this essay, is that if you spend the time fixing the info that comes in with the paper it references for you (handy hint- if you make sure the title is correct and then tell it to do a google search on title, it often comes back with the correct/nearly correct info, which you can ‘agree’ to or correct as needed) if you download the free word plugin.

When writing your essay on something like ‘the necessary and sufficient conditions’, you might like to cite Rogers’ 1959 paper. If you install the handy mendeley plug in for word, you just click an icon, type in ‘Rogers 1959’ (or some of the title if you prefer) and it puts the citation in for you. You then scroll to the place you want your reference list and ask it to ‘insert bibliography’. Thereafter, every time you cite something, it automatically adds it to your references, in alphabetical order.

You can tell it which referencing system you’re using, so ‘Harvard, Middlesex university’ type, and it will put them in in the correct format for your institution.

The last thing you can do is (at least on iOS) download the free mobile phone version of Mendeley and link it to your computer account and it lists all the papers. If you want to read one, you can download it to your phone. As you can see from the image below, I have the top article on my phone (the book icon) and if I wanted to read another, I’d just press the down arrow to get it.


For Android users, you can use Referey, which is still free, but you get slightly less functionality.

Now, if only it would write my assignments for me, I’d be delighted 🙂

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