As a phd student, I am in phase 0 of my research and I download many papers everyday. I have archived the names and the specifications of the papers in a spreadsheet, but that does not really help.

How can have I an efficient interactive archive/database of all the papers I download every day?

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    Have you look into bibliography software? (e.g. EndNote) Try talk to your school's librarians as well. – Penguin_Knight Jun 23 '17 at 16:36
  • There are a few pieces of software that do this. For a while my adviser loved Mendeley, but I never really got into it. It's also tried to make itself more of a social network in addition to a reference keeper. – David Jun 23 '17 at 16:40
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    If you plan on using Latex for your academic writing you should also start your own Bibtex file, decide on a \cite{} identification scheme, and start adding things there as well. – David Jun 23 '17 at 16:41

Absolutely begin using a reference management software. If you're planning on writing in LaTeX (which you will if you're in many sciences and engineering fields), something that manages Bibtex files is essential. I tried several more sophisticated programs like Papers (which is made to work like iTunes) and Mendeley, but I now use a very simple program called Jabref. Now when I get a new paper, I go to Google scholar, copy-paste their Bibtex entry (they have one for pretty much every published paper) into my master Bibtex file. Then when I'm working a separate project, I start a smaller Bibtex and copy references over when needed. Personally, I didn't like programs that tried to offer an "all-in-one" experience with built-in PDF reader, file management, etc.

My other tip is to name your files in a logical manner to make local search easier. I use "First few words of title First Author Year" E.g. "Stochastic Relaxation Gibbs Distributions Geman 1984"

  • Jabref was great! – user2326844 Jun 24 '17 at 17:55

Props to you for seeking to resolve this now and not down the road. I'm a third year (nearly fourth year) PhD student and I've just started using BibTex with Org-ref and Emacs. I also sync references and .pdf's with Syncthing. In the past I tried Zotero, Mendeley, and a custom system where I created my own templates and stored entries in a MongoDB databse (this was a horrible idea), but all had some shortingcomings. Endnote was not an option for me as I don't use Microsoft products.

BibTex/Org-ref/Emacs/Syncthing has been a life-changer and is everything that I want in a reference management system. This specific setup, of course, requires that you use Emacs (which is an entire life path of its own). Emacs has been worth it to me but is definitely not for everyone. There may be similar setups that avoid Emacs.

John Kitchin (the creator/maintainer of org-ref) has created a helpful demonstration of org-ref that shows how powerful this setup can be.

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