Want to speed up the process of academic writing?

I have been asked by several people to share my approach to managing citations.   This system seriously speeds up the process of academy writing. It requires Mendeley and Dropbox, a copy of Microsoft Word, and an iPad or Android tablet with the iAnnotate PDF app.



  • all of the papers you read will be in one place, along with your highlights and notes
  • you will be able to access them anywhere on multiple devices
  • you will highlight documents and save notes directly to the pdf
  • you will automatically produce a summary of  the highlights and notes along with the page numbers
  • You will automatically produce the bibliography for your paper… with one click.

This really does work so it is worth spending a bit of time setting it up.

The ‘dd’ Citation Management Workflow: 10 steps.


  1. Gather your research sources in Mendeley

WHY? All of your research sources should be in one place that you can access anywhere on multiple devices.

HOW? Import all PDF sources into the Mendeley Desktop application by means of:

  • Drag and drop the pdf
  • From a watched folder – create a folder on dropbox called “Import to Mendeley”, in Mendeley watch this folder.
  • With the Mendeley Web Importer – e.g. google scholar. Use Firefox and download the extension.  I use Firefox because the file extension works really well.
  • From a database – e.g. EBSCO. Export – Direct Export in RIS Format (e.g. CITAVI, EasyBib, EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero). Use – Open with Mendeley.

Put sources in groups. Create shared groups with collaborators.

*Never import any citation into Mendeley without a PDF.

  1. Ensure that your Mendeley library is located in Dropbox

WHY? Once this is set, your Mendeley library is automatically backed up to the cloud (via Dropbox).

HOW? First, make sure that you have a Dropbox account and have downloaded the Dropbox desktop application (so that your Dropbox folder appears as a location on your computer’s hard drive). Add a folder and name it e.g. Mendeley DBA to your Dropbox. Open Mendeley’s preferences, and under the “File Organizer” tab, select the new Dropbox Mendeley folder as the location of your library, by using the Browse… function. *use the rename document files to keep your folder tidy.

  1. Install the Mendeley app on your iPad or Android tablet and connect your account.

WHY? This makes your Mendeley account accessible on your tablet. It also allows you to add notes (see 7)

HOW? App store

  1. Add Microsoft Word integration

WHY? This plugin allow you to add your citations to your paper as you write, then automatically create a works cited page at the end.

HOW? To add the Microsoft Word Plugin, open the “Tools” option at the top of the page and select “Install MS Word Plugin”.

  1. Install iAnnotate PDF for iPad or Android tablets

WHY? iAnnotate allows you to read and write to the original files themselves, so your Mendeley library is always properly synced, and you never have too many copies of the same files.

  1. Use iAnnotate PDF for iPad to read, view, and annotate your sources

WHY? iAnnotate can highlight PDFs that use OCR (optical character recognition) and actually gather those highlighted sections (with page numbers) into a single document via its share option.

HOW? Add your Mendeley library to iAnnotate. Add your Dropbox folder that contains your library (see step 2). If you followed my directions, it should be located under Dropbox/Mendeley. Once your Mendeley library is added, open a PDF to annotate, by first selecting an author’s folder, and then the PDF file itself.

* Use the highlighting feature, to mark up passages relevant to your research. Make sure to sync the document back with Dropbox when done.

  1. Produce a summary of your notes

WHY? Automatically produce a summary containing all of your annotations (and very importantly where they are in the document, i.e. page numbers).

HOW? Once you are done highlighting relevant passages, use iAnnotate to email your notes to yourself by clicking on the + icon on the right hand side / email annotation summary

  1. Copy your notes to Mendeley Desktop

WHY? It’s a useful way to keep a copy and pasteable version of those items with source you found important.

HOW? Paste the summary into Mendeley under the notes tab of the source.

  • copy your annotations from your email and add to the desktop version of Mendeley
  • or use the Mendeley app – which cuts out the need for emailing the notes.
  1. Write your paper and add citations and a works cited

WHY? Mendeley will automatically create your bibliography for you (see 10).

HOW? Open Microsoft Word on your desktop. First, ensure that you can see the Mendeley toolbar. If not, go to View > Toolbars > Mendeley Toolbar. Write until you need a citation. To add a citation, click on Insert or Edit Citation in the Mendeley Toolbar. A pop-up will appear. Simply search for the source and select it when found. Add any page numbers, prefixes or suffixes. Then select OK. Your citation will appear. Continue adding citations throughout your paper.

  1. Insert bibliography.

WHY? Mendeley will automatically produce a bibliography for your paper.

HOW? Simply, click on the Insert Bibliography option and ensure that the drop-down menu beside it reflects your preferred citation method.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *