As a home based freelancer, researching is one essential skill that you should pack on your resume. But aside from knowing what to search, and where to search, it is equally essential to know how to arrange all those documents or articles you find online. It will not only make your job easier but will make your presentation more professionally structured.

I have found 2 amazing tools which I am using for my research works. And they are both totally for free!

Mendeley

For those who are into some serious research that needs all the bibliographic sources documented, Mendeley is the best choice for you.

Mendeley is free social software for managing and sharing research papers. It is also a Web 2.0 site for discovering research trends and connecting to like-minded academics

They provide a great research management tool that is available for both desktop and web based application. Not only that, it doesn’t leave you to do the research on your own because you can collaborate with other researchers on the network. You can create your own group where you can share your resources or have it publicly available. As a web researcher for a medical practitioner and author, Mendeley has tremendously helped me in making my research more organized and accessible even if I’m not on my desktop.

Mendeley is still in beta stage as I write this. And I’m sure there are a few things that can be improved. One thing I’m particularly keen on seeing is the ability to create a subcollection folder, a more stable importer tool (I just can’t seem make the web importer work) and annotation tools.

But overall, I would certainly recommend this tool to any web researcher, whether student or professional, or a home based worker who is into extensive research.

Zotero

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool that works almost perfectly identical with Mendeley. It’s main purpose: to make life a little more convenient to researchers. It helps collect, manage, and cite your research sources and in arranging, organizing and gathering documents, website links and snapshots, articles into structured folders (The detailed list of its features are listed below). Unlike Mendeley, Zotero is currently available as a Firefox application only.

Although some may prefer other browsers like Google Chrome or Internet Explorer, getting Zotero can be one of your best reasons to switch. There are two current versions available for download version 1.0.10 which has a few limitations when it comes to features but is considered the more stable version and version 2.0b7.6 which packs more advanced features with a little tinged of risk.

The stability of the second version is still being worked out but during my usage of the service (v2) i’ve only encountered a few minor issues like the browser freezing and some notes missing.

I was looking for some annotation tool within Zotero but was a little disappointed that I didn’t find one. To resolve this, I tried checking for other Firefox addons that can highlight and add notes. What I discovered is Zotero becomes an even more effective tool especially if you use it in combination with Diigo’s highlighting option. So for now, i’m using the two in tandem.
Collaboration

Zotero’s collaboration tool works great. Other than the scare because it freezes for a few seconds, Zotero works a like a charm when I used it with a client based in the UK. All you need to do is to create a group/library invite the person you would like to share your research, then synchronize to get whatever you or your group mate have added in the group library.

You can also read the research work made by Debra Lauterback on Zotero usability and survey results on Zotero.