Bibliography building software

I strongly urge all students (undergraduates & graduates) to pick a citation management system and learn how to use it.  There are various kinds of citation database applications.  Some are resident on your machine (like Endnote) while others are web-based (e.g. Refworks).  Many, including Zotero, have both desktop and web-based options.  Some you pay for, others are free.  Wikipedia has a good comparison page here.

The point of these applications is that you can build (and share) lists of references and scholarly sources and they significantly ease the burden of building a bibliography.  I started many years ago entering all my reprints (yes, they were paper reprints) into Endnote.  I used it mainly to organize and index which manilla folder each reprint was in.  In grad school, I used it to build bibliographies for papers and publications and ultimately my dissertation.  With each new writing project, I added the new references to my database of sources.  Subsequent bibliographies were easier to build since I only need to copy and paste references I had already entered into a new bibliography file and add any new sources I was citing.

Since coming to UNF, I’ve switched to Zotero and it has become my go-to citation management.  Here is a good tutorial on Zotero.  What I like is that Zotero is (1) free, (2) web-based so it’s always available on any machine I”m using (3) there’s an iPad app for it, (4) it has a wonderful system for adding citations that I might encounter on JSTOR or other online journal article repositories, (5) it has a plethora of citation styles, and (6) it’s darn easy to use once you get used to it.  I no longer am adding to my paper reprints file, but I have an ever growing electronic library of PDFs.  And many of these are included in my references database.

A recent expereince has reminded me how useful Zotero (and other citation systems) can be.  An editor of a volume that I’m contributing a chapter to asked me to re-do my bibliography in the style required by the publisher.  What could have been a full day of painful formatting was (with Zotero’s help) a 20 minute job….and that included finding and installing the publisher’s required citation style from Zotero’s repository of styles.  Long gone are the days of building a bibliography by hand and all the pain that that involved.




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