CiteULike: Studying Tags


So here we are, at the end of another semester, and it’s time for me to look back at what I’ve done and reflect on the choices I’ve made. My focus here is on my CiteULike tags, which have created a natural and organic folksonomy as a reflection of how I think of articles.

Over the course of the semester I read 35 articles, including 21 from the Review, Theoretical, Conceptual, Historical category, 12 from the Research, Empirical category, and 2 books. For these 35 readings, only one tag was used for all: read. This was a tag I used in partner with a second tag through the semester, unread. If there was an article I knew I would read and I had found on CiteULike, I marked it as unread. Once I read the article, I changed that tag to read. The majority of articles were entered after reading, so the unread tag was not used very often.

I feel like this is a tag I could have done without. It was borne, I believe, from a lack of familiarity with the site. CiteULike has built within it an area for your priority to read an article, and will show you articles in your library which are unread. Since I was more familiar with bookmark tagging than with CiteULike, I automatically tagged them with a manual read/unread status.

After this “status” tag, I also tried to mark each of the articles with the location I found them at. Several articles were found through JSTOR, or through Emerald. I also used EBSCOhost and actually found quite a few through Google’s Scholar search. I think this tag, unlike the status tag, is actually fairly helpful for me. I will sometimes download and save PDFs to my laptop, but if I want to go to the library after work or do some studying during lunch it can take some time to find the article again. Knowing where to look – or where to direct others to search if I want to share the article – is a time-saver. It also helps if the article is one that I read months ago and no longer have saved.

Several of the articles I also tried to tag with a series I like to call “type of knowledge”. These are the tags such as explicit, tacit, personal_knowledge, organizationalknowledge, knowledge_sharing, workplace_knowledge, knowledgemanagement and those which are similar. This helped me identify overall knowledge themes in the reading and connect similar pieces together. I think my use of these tags changed as I moved through the semester; for example, the knowledgemanagement tag was at first a very general tag – all the readings covered this topic to one extent or another – but as I got closer to the end of the semester it became more specific in use. I started only using it for articles where the main focus wasn’t on sharing, learning, or studying knowledge, but actually focused on how we manage knowledge with systems.

After a status, location, and type of knowledge tag, the rest of the tags used on each entry were “hints” as to the content of the articles. These tags included phrases like “cases”, “diversity_at_work”, “trust”, and “organizational_culture”. Many of these tags were only used once, with only a few being used multiple times.

I think I could have made a more efficient tagging system if I had taken the time before hand to really think out what was important to know about each article. While the most specific tags I used are good indicators for me for what is in the articles, they don’t really work well at tying articles together. They are at once too general and too specific. For the future I would suggest planning a tagging system prior to execution, and deciding up front how to relate articles together. For me, this would mean losing the “read/unread” status because that is already built into the site. I would keep the location and the type of knowledge tags, though I would decide on a list of acceptable knowledge types to use. Another good tag would have been to include which category the articles fell within. Finally, for the specific tags, I would decide which tags are going to have the most impact on my work and what I need to know and remove any tags which have no benefit. Here is my tag cloud at the moment, what do you think?

word cloud


3 thoughts on “CiteULike: Studying Tags

  1. Wonderful! You end this post on some very important insights about the complexities involved in managing knowledge in the form of references as documents. Tagging is a form of classification, and historically, there have been two major approaches — the analytical and the synthetic. The analytical method imposes a pre-existing knowledge structure. E.g., we sit down and think about the classification of knowledge, then we develop a classification system, and then use that system to classify documents. Your system is a more synthetic approach but you kind of come to the realization that this might have been insufficient because it’s either “too general or too specific”, or, it’s not generalizable. What do you think about this?


    • I think I might have done a lot better with the analytical approach! As useful as the tags I used seemed when I was adding them to the references, they didn’t really work well together. I didn’t think of myself as someone who needs a lot of structure, but at the end I felt like I had too many tags I’d only used once. Maybe I simply didn’t have enough articles to really make my synthetic approach work well. Also, sometimes what’s important in a reference can depend highly on my mood while reading it (and where I read it!). If I feel rushed or tired then what I pull out of an article might be different than if I read it during lunch or at the library.

      Liked by 1 person

      • On reflection, I feel almost the opposite-I had a relatively small pool of content-oriented tags, so I didn’t have many tags that I’d consider extraneous, but it might not have differentiated as well as I would have liked.


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