Pick your own: Literature reviewing tools

Andy Tattersall describes five tools that can help you organise your literature review collection.

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Literature reviewing can be a bit like shopping, you go into the supermarket with the intention of picking up just a couple of items and before you know it you are straddling the aisles with an armful of fruit, vegetables and chocolate, dropping items every time you bend down to pick one up. In essence this is literature reviewing for some - you find a useful article, write it down on a scrap of paper which in turn gets lost down the back of a desk. In the past you might have kept a few papers in a drawer or folder in anachronistic format, or if you were lucky you kept a card index, and if you were really lucky you used a piece of reference management software, something like Reference Manager or Endnote.

This was all very well before other useful research started popping up all over the Web, grey literature, conference proceedings, Wikipedia entries, Tweets, YouTube videos; all of which are increasingly useful forms of evidence for certain research topics. Some researchers may have started using the bookmarks in their browsers to save these titbits of knowledge, whilst others seeing the potential of Web 2.0 used wikis and social bookmarking tools like Delicious. A lot of the bookmarking and saving was carried out on single desktop machines with limited multiple device usage, but that was before tablets arrived.

Things have continued to move on apace since then and there are countless tools you can use to manage your literature review whilst on the go. There are certain tools that are already well known for their ability to save and manage literature reviews with Mendeley, Zotero and ReadCube being three of the better known ones. Here are five tools that will aid the tools above that you might not have considered to help you organise your literature review collection.


One of the best little tools on the Web, available on Chrome, Android, iPad and iPhone amongst others. Readability stores useful articles, whether they be blog posts, newspaper articles, or web pages and turns them into simple, clean PDF style looking documents that you can read later on your mobile device or computer. Articles are saved by applying tags and they can even be sent straight to your Kindle.


Scoop.it! is a step up from the likes of Delicious and Diigo in that you save articles you like or find useful by clicking the ScoopIt! button installed in your web browser. It is a curation tool that (with the free account) gives you five topics of your own choice to Scoop. You follow people and Scoop what they are finding interesting and can share your finds on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. It is a very useful tool for cursory and scoping searches, but its real value comes from collecting new items of interest you can come across on Social Media.

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