Organizing Your PDFs

Many researchers find that they have PDFs in too many locations, syncing between devices can be hard, and the original file names are not very helpful.

Here are some guidelines to help improve the situation.

A Savvy Solution

Other Savvy Solutions

1. Using only file structure and naming
Identify one place to store your PDFs
Organize your files by developing a file structure and create a scheme for file naming
Rename files and move them to the appropriate folder

2. Zotero + Reading + Storage
Zotero manages your citations and offers free options for working in groups.

Zotpad - Use Zotpad with your favorite iPad reader for reading and annotating, one example is Good Reader. Zotero works with Google Drive and DropBox.

Starting points for organizing your PDFs

  1. Find - Locate your PDFs
  2. Organize - Name and save your files
  3. Read (and annotate) your document
  4. Share - Cite or share with others
  5. Preserve - Consider long term storage

Locate your PDFs, perhaps on multiple devices, and put them in one location. Decide how to deal with important paper files.

File Names: Rename your files with useful elements. Names should be unique, consistent, scannable and fall into a logical order

Examples file names:
Smith_M 1998.pdf
AHAgrant Smith 1998.pdf

File Organization: If you organize your e-mail or word processing documents in a scheme that works for you, consider reusing it for your PDFs. The ability to search for documents can replace a complex file structure.

Use PDF reader and citation manager software alone or in combination to read and annotate your PDFs

Citation managers offer an easy way to share a citation with others or create a formatted citation for a paper. Some offer options for groups to work collaboratively and share documents.

Consider what works for long-term back-up of important documents. Think about cloud storage if you want to share documents, and remember your hard drive will need a secure back-up.