Organize literature – very easy!

A stroke of luck, if you find a lot of literature on the topic of his thesis – but in order not to lose track of the information from bibliographical information to your own notes, you have to organize the literature. What can be done to bring order to literary chaos and what methods there are is here.

Classic or modern: types of organization

If one asks oneself after the research for the bachelor thesis or master thesis, how one should organize all the literature, it is already too late. So to clarify this question, you should plan enough time. Because the time required to set up a system can vary greatly depending on the situation.

As in other areas of life and study, technology has long been used in the organization of literature. Meanwhile, there is a wealth of software offerings, so-called literature management programs, with which you can organize literature.

Before deciding on a method, one should ask oneself which claims one places on the organization. If, for example, it is merely a matter of facilitating literature research, the search for suitable software and its incorporation could possibly be relatively complicated. In this case one could fall back on other alternatives.

Organize literature for the bachelor thesis or master thesis with the paper box

But if you decide to use literature management programs for yourself, you do not have to surrender to the chaotic chaos: in addition to software-based solutions, there are still manual methods of bibliographic management today. Apart from the excerpt, which gives the own notes structure, there is also for the bibliography a system of order – the classic paper box.

Mostly in the form of a small card box, one can create a separate index card for each book in its bibliography with the help of the slip box. The bibliographic information, such as the author, title, and the signature of the library where the literature is to be found, can be found thereon (Eco 2010, pp. 80-81).

You bring the box with you and can always complete it. The card-box system can be extended as required and can also be used for literature editing with excerpts in the card format. Idea cards, quotes cards and more are also possible (Eco 2010: p. 154). For those looking for a middle ground, a similar system can be created with common software such as Word or Excel. Alternatively, there is a software that is modeled on the paper box method (see also below).

These advantages and disadvantages of working with the manual paper box:


No additional costs

No training or instructions needed

Above all, handwritten notes prevent you from being inclined to merely copy out information with which you deal more intensively with the matter


Less flexibility

Manual organization, structural changes are associated with some effort

The search for information can be very expensive even if a consistent structure is maintained

If information is stored incorrectly, it will quickly lead to errors without plagiarism

Since the software can not be included in the citation, the editing of the bachelor thesis, master thesis or dissertation is more elaborate at the end

The organization with the literature management system

The software-based method of literature organization offers many fields of application: Some programs focus on one aspect, while others are true all-rounders. Literature management programs can do a lot, both in literature research, creating and searching for annotations in texts, as well as helping to create an indirect or direct quote, graphical representations, and a bibliography.

One benefit of software-based literature management is the ease of searchability of multiple documents as well as self-added notes. In addition, it is convenient to bundle all the necessary information in one place.

Some programs are priced higher than others, so you should check carefully, if not other methods of literature organization come into question. It is also important to familiarize yourself with the application in good time, so that you do not have to waste time searching for different functions, which was planned for other work steps (Klein 2017, chapter 4.2).

These advantages and disadvantages are offered by working with reference management programs:


Many functions can be combined, all information can be entered in a program

High flexibility

Simplification of many work steps such as research and bibliography possible


Longer preparation to become familiar with the program

Possibly many features that are not actively used, but which complicate usability

Additional costs

Types of literature management software for the bachelor thesis and master thesis

As large as the range of bibliographic management programs is, so diverse is what each program can accomplish. Some are particularly useful for managing PDFs, others are useful for managing bibliographic data and citing sources. Anyone who uses latex for his thesis will also find software that is specifically geared towards the text-sentence system.

Examples of reference management programs include commercial programs such as Citavi and Endnote, free programs such as Mendeley and Zotero, and those specifically for latex applications such as Jabref and Docear (see also the Guide to the Leibniz Information Center).

In addition to offline applications, there are also many tools that work web-based. Although the compatibility with the operating system is less problematic, such as when working on different devices, but it depends on the connection to the Internet.

While this is now commonplace, disruptions and unforeseen events, such as a network outage, could in the worst case prevent work with the bibliographic management program. Even for such cases you should arm yourself in time, for example, by purchasing an Internet stick, especially if you combine many steps in the literature management programs.

The selection of the appropriate method

But not every software is suitable for everyone. Everyone has to decide in advance for themselves which factors will play a role for him in the later writing of the bachelor thesis or master thesis and be given more weight in deciding which software to use to organize his literature.

The following factors may influence the choice for the appropriate bibliographic management program:

  • Cost: paid software or freeware
  • Compatibility: platform, operating system
  • Search in databases
  • Full-text search
  • Integration of documents and specific file formats
  • Release and joint processing
  • Linkage with word processing and compatibility (for example with latex)
  • Usability as well as accessibility, comprehensibility and scope of help, instructions and tutorials.

Ultimately, the choice of literature organization is a matter of preference. But you should check exactly which program has which advantages and disadvantages, so that you do not rush to make a decision for a software, which ultimately costs more time and effort than it makes easier for writing the thesis.