Monday, October 03, 2005

Research Blog: Bibliographies-R-Us

If you are doing any academic writing at all, you need to acquire and use bibliographic software. Trust me on this!

I enjoy doing the reading in preparation for academic writing. I enjoy gathering data and trying to make sense of it. And when I eventually get down to it, I even enjoy wrestling with the words to describe what I've done/found out/whatever! What drives me nutty, is creating and maintaining the bibliography. Have I included everything in my reference list that I've referenced in the body of the essay? Have I left in any references that I've deleted from the essay? Have I got the online journal reference format exactly right and how do I change it from APA style to MLA when somebody asks for a change? It's purely mechanical, but so boring and time consuming. It drives me to distraction... at least it did until I discovered Specsavers... er, until I discovered bibliographic referencing software.

Darcy Proposes
Darcy Proposes,
originally uploaded by Dizzy Girl.
I first came across a HyperCard stack that was really just a database for references about ten years ago, but it didn't help much with the layout and formatting of references. It gave me a flavour though of how software could help so that when I came across Endnote many years later, I knew it was just what I had been looking for. There are other similar programs, e.g. Ref Manager, and I tried a few of them but for me, Endnote did everything I wanted and more. It just suited the way I wanted to work. David Warlick's Citation Machine works well for individual references, but Endnote adds the ability to store a whole bunch of references in a single database, to change the reference format easily, a seamless integration with Word, a "cite while you write" feature, the ability to search online library catalogues and import the data directly into Endnote, and... oh read the website yourself and download the 30 day free trial. You wont regret it! (And no, I'm not on commission from Endnote!)

Ewan is currently posting chapters from his own research on his blog and seems to say that he is keeping his references in a Word document. It is not absolutely straightforward to move from Word into Endnote, but even at this late stage I would still say it was worth it.

The only thing that was a problem for me was that Endnote was only installed on my office machine, so if I was working in the library, or away from my usual machine, I had to carefully record all the reference details manually and then transfer them into Endnote later. At least, that's what I had to do before I discovered CiteULike! A wee while ago Ewan pointed me towards H2O and I thought it sounded promising, but I was a bit frustrated because it didn't store the information I needed in a format that made it easy to transfer to a formal bibliography. CiteULike however not only stores everything I need, but can pull it in automatically from most of the online journal services that I use (including Ingenta Connect whish is probably the one I use most often), I can tag stuff, I can see who else has stored a particular source and can subscribe to an RSS feed of their reference list and... It's like for academic papers! I've kept the best for last though. I can export my CiteULike references straight into Endnote. I only wish I'd discovered it sooner - 1200ish people had already bookmarked it in before me and some had found it as far back as November of 2004!

Still, better late than never. :-)

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Ewan McIntosh said...

Thanks for the tip - I'll investigate CiteULike. I'm about to enter into a far more in-depth piece of research and that'll be a must.

Anonymous said...

I'll look into citeulike too! My choice of bibliography software is one called Inflight Referencer. I use it for my APA format lists, but it does other styles as well, it accomplishes not all, but a lot of what EndNote does too. You can get more information on it at
My main reason for using it is that it is a low cost alternative, perfect for a grad student like me!

David said...

I cannot tell a lie... one of thew reasons I use Endnote is that the university has a license for it, so effectively it costs me nothing. However they also have a license for Ref Manager. I tried both and Endnote just seemed to fit.

Thanks for the link to Inflight Referencer.