Adam Rocker
Adam Rocker
Masters Student, University of Guelph
Source: Melpmenem/Thinkstock
Source: Melpmenem/Thinkstock

With an ever-expanding pool of literature available globally, maintaining an organized library of research articles and staying on top of new publications has never been more challenging or necessary to the modern researcher.

In December 2012, I found myself buried in a pile of poorly annotated PDFs while piecing together a research proposal for a Masters project at the University of Guelph. Thinking there must be a better way to organize my PDF collection, I scoured the internet and came across ReadCube, a free-to-use software application dedicated to literature management.

Upon startup of the ReadCube desktop application, I was pleased by the ease with which I could import months of accumulated articles. Better still was the joy I felt as I watched the program automatically annotate the entirety of my eccentrically labeled collection with titles and authors pulled from PubMed and Google Scholar.

Once my articles were transferred to the ReadCube platform, the reading experience was analogous to Adobe Acrobat/Reader (zoom, highlight, and comment functionalities), but with a critical difference. These ‘enhanced PDFs’ were interactive in that clicking on an author immediately runs a search for that individual’s publications, and clicking on an in-text citation instantaneously searches for the article in question, allowing you to add it to your library and rapidly answer questions such as: “Does this reference support the preceding statement?” The efficiency of moving through articles in such a manner was refreshing.

With my proposal complete, I had effectively brought myself (and ReadCube) up to date on all subject matter relevant to my project. However, with an active field of study, my informed status would only last so long. This is where ReadCube truly shines. Using the hundreds of articles from my research proposal as the basis for a search, the ‘Recommendations' feature identifies relevant, recently published works and serves them up in the same, easily navigable fashion. By scanning through my recommendations once a week, I manage to stay on the cutting edge of my chosen fields of research.

I must admit, the first time I came across a game-changing (or golden, as I like to refer to them) article, just days after its release, was a thrill. Experiencing this rush a second time was enough to push me to take on the role of ReadCube Campus Ambassador; a position which I use to run workshops throughout my department so that graduate students and faculty do not miss out on this powerful tool.

Over my year and a half as a ReadCube user and ambassador, the base application has been vastly improved with the addition of an intuitive user interface, a citation manager, and article metric data which tracks citations and mentions on social media platforms. Additionally, ReadCube Pro (a subscription-based version of the application) includes cloud synchronization, allowing maintenance of a single library across multiple devices.

Throughout my Masters, ReadCube has been an invaluable tool for both reading efficiently through the existing literature, and staying on top of critical material that lies just around the bend. Learn more here if you’re interested.

Best of luck with your research!