Monday, 7 December 2015

Adding a new level of organization to your Mendeley Library by combining Tags and Folders.

Hello everyone,

I have previously commented on how to organize large libraries of articles in Mendeley Desktop, where I've suggested and supported the simple use of tags for organization and I've also discouraged the use of folders.

Despite my previous posts, I come here today to encourage you to profit from folders as a complement of the Tag Ecosystem Organization strategy. I still do not consider the single and linear usage of folders as an efficient strategy to organize large libraries, as this easily becomes obsolete as our career progresses. But, we can use folders to improve or organization method and, thus, our effectiveness.

A complete tag organization allows you to interlink on demand every thematic, topic or concept of your database and retrieve back any paper of interest at any time and given certain topics. It also allows your database to grow and expand over time without generating limitations in traceability and effectiveness; because it is not a linear system of organization.


With the usage of Folders we can still improve our Mendeley Desktop Library for better performance and usability.

Situation: when writing our own paper or project, or studying a subject, we may need to quickly retrieve a list of every article we are currently using for that particular task so that we do not need to search for them again in the main library list.

Problem: tag organization allow us to interlink articles on the library based on our demand and on the article topics we have inserted. Though we can use tags to group a bunch of papers under name any 'tag name' of our choice, it is awkward to mix scientific topics and personal annotations like 'my_first_paper' into the same system (tags in this case).

Solution: We can add a new level of organization to our library by using folders to keep track of those papers we are currently using for a specific project or task, like 'my_first_paper'. Therefore, instead of using folders in the traditional and linear way to organize papers according to their topics/concepts/thematics, we would rather use them as a second level of organization to keep track and store those papers we are using and needing for a specific project. The papers themselves would still be organized under the tag ecosystem  and would be available when searching throw the tag filter as we have previously discussed.

In this way, we can easily access the list of articles we are using for a particular task in the lab. And, in Mendeley, papers can be added and removed from folders easily without generating copies or additional space in the computer.

Two different tools available in Mendeley Desktop - tags and folders -  can be used to add two levels of organization to our library. By keeping separated topic organization and daily needs organization we would be way more effective on retrieving information from our database.

Obviously we can still use folders in the traditional way, along with the usage of tags and the usage of folders suggested in this post. Actually we can have both methods simultaneously and have them separated by the folder/subfolder system.

Sometimes, effectiveness of a method is inversely proportional to its complexity :-) and simple ideas are sometimes difficult to see. A very simple method is proposed here to keep large articles database workable and functional under the daily needs of a researcher.

Enjoy and feedbak!

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