A Qiqqa Way to Reference Management

Whether you are a student, faculty member, researcher, or instructional designer, there comes a point when you realize there must be a better way to manage and organize your PDF collection.  I reached my tipping point when my PDF collection topped 100 half-way into my second, research-heavy online course.  As a technology neophyte, I had no idea how many tools were out there that could help me organize and manage my research.  After I figured that out, the question became: Which Tool?

There is no questioning the value in finding the article or research you need, when you need it.  According to Mead and Berryman (2010) “Few people ever capture their search strategies and carefully download their references…people want to make a usable database of their already retrieved PDFs. They want them to be instantly viewable and searchable” (p. 390).  Here are some questions to consider when choosing a reference management tool:

  • First, what are your needs and how do you intend to use the information in your PDF collection?  For example, do you need to organize, annotate, and search your PDFs for quick retrieval of data and quotes when writing papers or are you just looking for a way to organize your own digital library?
  • What is your workflow?  For example, do you read articles and take notes to refer to later or organize by subject matter first before reading?
  • Do you want to access your PDFs from anywhere or do you prefer to store your collection on your home network?
  • Which reference management tools are compatible with your computer operating system?
  • What other tasks do you want the reference management tool to perform?  For example, do you need citations exported into word processing software?
  • Finally, how easy is the tool to use and what does it cost?

Using these questions as a guide will assist you in choosing the right reference management tool to meet your needs.  For example, I wanted a free application that I could download and use on my own Microsoft Windows network or online.  I also wanted to organize or tag my PDFs, highlight or annotate sections for later reference, and export the citations into research papers.  I chose Qiqqa, a research and reference manager application, developed by a British graduate student.  With the free option, Qiqqa met all my needs while also allowing me to search by annotations or highlighted passages, retrieve citation metadata, track which articles were unread or partially read, and search for content in multiple ways.  Finding a better and Qiqqa way to manage and organize my PDF collection has been an enormous timesaver.  Here are some other reference management tool options to consider: RefWorks, Mendeley, and Zotero.


Mead, T. L. & Berryman, D. R. (2010). Reference and PDF-manager software: Complexities, support and workflow. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 29, 388-393.

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3 responses to “A Qiqqa Way to Reference Management”

  1. Randl Spear says:

    Sounds like a good problem to have, too much data to access.

  2. Great article, Wendy!
    I just started a course in MPH at UNE Online, and they had recommended RefWorks, so that’s all I had ever heard of. I’ll have to check out Qigga.

    • Wendy DiBrigida says:

      Thank you, Monique.
      It’s always a good idea to check out a few different apps. You want to use the one that best fits your needs. Qiqqa, for example, cannot be used with Mac ios.

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