Doing a literature review is a daunting task. Narrowing the problem down and generating keywords for searches can result in thousands of hits or none. Then comes the onerous task of sorting through the results looking for a few that would be useful. Some programs online promise to streamline the process by helping writers stay organized. One such program is Endnote found at http://endnote.com.
According to the site’s advertising, this program is supposed to be a handy way to store full-text PDF articles. It is also intended to help with citations by automatically adding citations while you write. Both of those would be great features to have, especially with the current class’s research requirements.
When I downloaded the free trial version and launched it, the first window was a warning that my trial was thirty days from expiration, but after acknowledging that, I arrived at the main screen. There were three options available: Learn About Endnote, Create a New Library, and Open an Existing Library.
I expected Learn About Endnote to contain tutorials of some sort, but it was the searchable help file. I did not know enough about the software to know what to search for yet, so I returned to the main screen and selected Create a New Library. When I tried to point the home for the library to my Dropbox folder for Walden files, the program crashed. I reloaded it and navigated through the expiration warning to the main screen. After selecting a Create New Library again, I picked a place on my hard drive.
A new screen showed up that made no intuitive sense.
With my library created on my hard drive, I went to the new screen and tried to take this software for a test drive. Since I will be research adult illiteracy, I decided to try that search.
After trying all the different search options in the drop-down menus, I figured out that this program does not do any searching for documents outside the program. So, I went off to the Walden Library to see what I could find.
I found the article I used for my Week 3 discussion on a potentially useful resource, but there was no option on the webpage to transfer the reference information to Endnote. When I returned to Endnote, I found a dropdown for New Reference and discovered that I had to do the data entry by hand. Yes, I could copy and paste one piece of information at a time from the article’s ERIC listing to Endnote, but that was a tedious process, and about halfway through the data entry, there were abbreviations for things I could not identify. When I had entered as many fields as I could, I could not find a Save button, but when I tried to exit the screen, I received a warning that I had not saved my work.
I was able to attach the PDF of the article after a multi-step process, but when I tried to quote the article in a document and add the citation, I received an error message that there were no references in the “front library” and no indication of how to make that happen. Then I returned to the Endnote screen and found that the citation I had entered had disappeared.
I did find a collection of online tutorials, but they did not match what happened when I executed the steps they described. I received error messages and could not do what the instructions were telling me to do.
Having a bibliographical listing handy would be nice. Right now, I use a word processor document to store links. Although the data entry into Endnote was tedious, I was able to load the document up with a few button clicks. If this program works as the website describes, this would be a useful service.
One big detractor for this software is the cost. The normal cost is $299.95, although there is a special right now for students to get it at $113.95 and faculty and staff to get it for $219.95. That is a significant amount of money, especially considering that many students are on a tight budget.
The program bombed and had to be closed half the times I launched it.
This software is anything but intuitive. The difficulty of using it became very frustrating very quickly. I could not get the other functions to work, and the data I had manually entered vanished even though I had clicked the button to save my work when the error message came up asking me if I wanted to save it.
There is a possibility that the free trial version is “crippleware,” or software that is lacking features while in the free demonstration mode. Another possible limitation may be related to the web browser (Firefox) and word processor (Open Office) I was using for the test, but according to the webpage, Open Office is supported, and no mention was made of compatible or incompatible browsers. My computer is nothing like the latest and greatest available, but it did meet the minimum requirements.
Nevertheless, based on the experience I had trying to operate this software, I would not recommend it.