Organizational Software for Literature Reviews

    Posted on Friday, Mar 03, 2017
    As a graduate student, you’re going to have to write a very lengthy and detailed paper at some point in your program – mostly likely a thesis. Diving into a literature review involves compiling applicable papers, reading them, and digesting the information. Quite a large task! It’s easy to feel overloaded with information and get lost down the research rabbit hole. Thankfully, there is software that can help you stay organized along the way and may improve your work flow!
    Multiple programs that specialize in document management and knowledge organization exist. The more popular ones are Zotero (, Mendeley (, and Citavi ( And they are all free! Each of these programs has their pros and cons, so be sure to pick the right one for you!
    I am more familiar with Citavi, and it has helped be greatly since I started using it. Throughout the course of my research, I’ve read hundreds of papers. Some I saved in specially named files, others I couldn’t find after I had read them, some I printed out and marked up by hand. However, with Citavi, all of the papers can be neatly filed away and easily located when needed.
    You can download research papers directly into the software, sort them by content, and even mark up the PDF and write comments.  Citavi keeps all of the papers and notes together! You can also keep track of what papers you’ve read and would like to read. It also automatically creates bibliography references! How cool is that? However, the only downfall to Citavi is the free version only allows up to 100 papers.
    One of the unique features is that it also has an integrated task planner to keep track of papers you have read, would like to read, or where you are in analyzing it. Perhaps the coolest feature of all is that the comments and highlighted sections of the PDFs can be categorized and then exported into a Word Document. Voila! Half the thesis is written already!
    Any one of these types of organizational software (Zotero, Mendeley, or Citavi) can help streamline your work processes and lessen the burden of remembering the finer details of each research paper. I highly recommend giving one of them a try!
    Kelsey Fieseler | Mechanical Engineering​

    Kelsey Fieseler is a first-year Master’s student in Mechanical Engineering from Sugar Land, Texas.

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