Connotea, an Online Research Tool

Connotea logoWe’re currently encouraging faculty and students to test Connotea (, pronounced con-no-TAY-uh), an online tool that combines the ‘tagging’ features of services such as with an academic research focus.

Anyone can register at the site, create a username, and then begin building a library of resources—online articles, book reviews, web pages, anything with a URL—simply by clicking the “Add to Connotea” button that you add to your Internet browser. Connotea allows you to export your library of resources into other programs (like EndNote, the bibliographic software Duke currently supports) or subscribe to an RSS feed of your own or another user’s library. You can also configure your account so that the Get It @ Duke button will appear next to many Connotea citations, linking you to online full-text resources available through Duke.

Since most users’ libraries of resources are public (though you can choose to make a private library), you can search for tags of interest to you among resources found by other users—fellow Duke students, Duke librarians who are putting useful resources into Connotea, as well as researchers and scholars around the world who are using the site for their own work. Look for the DukeUniversityLibraries group to find resources in Connotea that have been tagged by Duke Librarians.

For directions on getting started and more tips, see the library’s Connotea web page at:

Written by Phoebe Acheson

9 thoughts on “Connotea, an Online Research Tool”

  1. This is great, but what about citeulike? Is there any way you could cross-post stuff on citeulike, too? If you guys are doing this with some sort of a script, it can be modified to post to both sites. Citeulike has a strong user base in natural sciences, biomedical sciences, psychology and education; less so in the humanities.

  2. Thanks for your comment Gary. CiteULike is great too, and researchers should use whichever one works best for them. We haven’t built any custom code that would favor (or disfavor) any of the social bookmarking/social citation tools, and for now are mostly trying to expose folks at Duke who might not already have encountered them to the possibilities these types of tools provide. We should post a LibraryHacks item on CiteULike soon, or maybe just link to the ones you’ve already written. 🙂

    When we first started exploring social citation tools as the potential base for new library services, we looked at a bunch of them, including Connotea and CiteULike, as well as PennTags, H20Playlist, Scuttle, and Unalog. There were things we really liked and things we wished were different in all of them, but we decided to start with Connotea as one we would do most of our initial experimenting with for a couple of reasons: it is GPL licensed, and we thought we might want to install a local instance at some point and possibly do some customization for Duke users (like Duke NetID authentication); it seemed to have a fairly large user base already, or at least critical mass to demonstrate the social benefits of using it; it had good documentation for beginners; it is supported by the Nature Publishing Group, which we thought made it less likely to disappear soon (if the individual developers of some of the other systems decided to stop supporting their tools for whatever reason).

    Still, we recognize that each of these different systems has strengths in different areas, so ideally we’d help Duke researchers find and use whichever one is best for their particular situation. Advice from folks like you who are expert users of several of them is most welcome!

    What I’d like to see is something that combines the best of each of these with Duke’s catalog, WorldCat, LibraryThing, Netflix, and a few others. Maybe we’re headed in that direction with Zotero or the TagCommons initiative…

  3. Hi, I’m the product manager for Connotea at Nature. I just wanted to post that I’ts cool that you are trying our service out. If you have any direct feedback, or bugs or features that you want us to look at, just drop me a note at

  4. It is now a year later. It would be good to know how your impressions of Connotea have developed. I tested it the last couple days with a few dozen citations. It is an attractive & pleasant system, downright fun really. I became concerned, though: there is no way to edit the author-field, and the program just drops all the secondary authors. It also abbreviates given-names to an initial, and drops the middle-initial for 2-initial names.

    As just a link to a source on the Net, as a beefed-up on-line Bookmarks or Favorites, loss of name-info is no biggie, but as a way of gathering a personal bibliography, it seems like a degradation of key info.

    It appears that tags are all shared by everyone, and if one gets goofed up, others cannot edit it. By the time I had a few dozen tags, a number of them were automatically changed to plainly malformed spellings & capitalizations. I entered “Younger Dryas”, and it immediately changed to “YOUNGER DRYAS”. Someone had entered Younger Dryas without quotes, so in the related-tags column there was Younger and below it was Dryas. So when we export, we will drag a bunch of messed-up tags into our next environment.

    The only fields we can edit are Title, Description, and Comments. People are stuffing Abstracts into the Description field. Or maybe filling it out with their own comments. As a database record, the end result is not pretty.

    I enjoyed using it and wish it performed better, but I could just see ending up with hundreds ragged & irregular citations, over-pruned author-info (and no institution-affiliation) … and continued my search.

    Please send me an e-mail if there is a more current test & evaluation of Connotea – or a recommended alternative!

  5. I have now made good progress with Connotea, most of my complaints have proved to be ‘operator error’, and I have had good & encouraging communication with Ian Mulvaney, the project-lead.

    I have also started using the ‘competitor’-project, BibSonomy, together with Connotea.

    The update details are in a new post on Connotea that Catherine has started, at

    Please go there for her response, and my update.

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