How to manage research papers on the go with PaperShip


alexhope croppedAlex Hope is always on the lookout for new technology to assist with the day-to-day job of research and teaching. One of the most time-consuming tasks, he finds, is the management of his research library. PaperShip – a new IOS app for managing research papers on the iPad and iPhone – seems set to become a go to reading and annotation tool, and promises to help users better gauge the public impact of academic research.

There are an increasing number of tools that promise to help us manage our research libraries, from the old stalwart Endnote, through powerful programs such as Papers and Sente, to the relatively new kids on the block Zotero and Mendeley. Readers will know that for some time Zotero has been my go to app (see my previous post on Zotero here). Whilst these are great in the office and essential when preparing papers for publication, I prefer to read and annotate my research papers on the go using my iPad.

Most of these systems now have a mobile app for managing and reading papers on the go, however I have yet to find one which works reliably with larger databases or offers the range of features that I need (I have yet to try the Endnote app released early November 2013). Most of the systems are relatively expensive – with Papers and Sente coming in around $89 (£55) for the programme and mobile app (Sente does have a free version but this is limited to 100 papers), and Endnote costing a whopping $259 (£160) including the $9.99 (£5.99) mobile app. Mendeley does have a free IOS app but it functionality is limited and Zotero relies on the third-party Zotpad app, which for me is a little too clunky and has limitations in use.

The new kid on the block

ipad-papershipEnter PaperShip. Designed for iPad and iPhone, PaperShip syncs with Zotero and Mendeley libraries, providing access to all items stored inside them. To add new references, it also imports directly from the web and automatically downloads full text PDFs when available. Each PDF can be annotated and highlighted, then stored back within the library with every modification saved. Annotated documents can also be shared via email, text messages, Facebook and Twitter. In use I have found PaperShip to be fast and reliable. Set up was as easy as adding in my Zotero or Mendeley username and password. You can decide if you want to download your complete library of papers to your device or choose to download individually as and when you need them. So far in use the app has been rock solid and reliable, one of the main problems that I had with other systems. It also looks good and has an intuitive interface taking cues from email apps such as Gmail and Mailbox.

Annotation features

papership-tableThe basic version of the app which allows you to download, read and manage your research papers. You can also annotate papers by exporting to a third-party app like Goodreader or iAnnotate. For a one-off payment of $9.99 (£5.99) however, you get access to PaperShip’s own annotation tools which are extremely powerful and as good as other tools I have ever used. I would highly recommend spending the cash as the tools are great, and it is also a good way to support the developer.

Altmetric integration

One of the more interesting and unique features of PaperShip is that it displays the significance of publications by providing web-based metrics known as altmetrics. Online activities around a scholarly work are taken into account, such as the number of times a paper had been downloaded. With PaperShip, even non-peer-reviewed literature impact is measured, including Open Access publications. For such needs, the donut-shaped graphic from the Altmetric company is added to the PaperShip interface. The question of how article level metrics can inform qualitative assessments of impact is an interesting one and it is nice to see this feature included.


PaperShips has become my go to app for reading, managing and annotating my research library. I only wish that this app had been released a few years ago when I was completing my PhD! You can download PaperShip for free on the App Store, and keep in touch by following the developers on Twitter (@papershipapp).

This article was originally published on Alex Hope’s blog and is kindly republished with permission.  

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Impact of Social Science blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our Comments Policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

About the Author

Dr. Alex Hope is Lecturer in Sustainable Development and Project Management in the Faculty of Engineering and Environment, Northumbria University where he teaches on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. He is an avid social media advocate tweeting as @DrSustainable and blogging at