Home > innovation, technology tuesday, Web 2.0 > Citation and Reference Managers

Citation and Reference Managers


If you are like me, as you start to collect resources for your research, things can often become rather hectic. As you mine citations, plow through journal articles, meander along catalog records, and scribble your notes on whatever writable surface seems to be available; the fruition of your efforts may include a rather laborious re-construction of your research path. Even if you have kept your notes in order, remembering how to correctly format each citation style, let alone assure that you have all the correct data for your citation; can often be the most cumbersome part of your endeavor.

There are a handful of tools already on the market, that have satisfied researchers, students, and librarians alike. Many academic institutions provide one or another of the proprietary products, such as Endnote or Refworks. These adequate for your office but can often leave you a wanting if you are working from home or while traveling to a conference. Short of that limitation there are several new open-source solutions that may be of interest to you.

Bibus is a unique tool which features hierarchical presentations, database querieing, and community collaboration. This may not be for the novice user, as the interface isn’t necessarily simple or intuitive, but some of the particular features make it worth a look.

Jabref is an interesting tool that utilized the BibTeX formatting language. You can download citations directly from many databases and the WYSIWYG interface makes editing and managing records quite simple. It unfortunately doesn’t play well with Word and other word processors, but if you are just looking to keep a record of your research, it may function just right.

A student project from Carnegie Mellon, Bibme is a Web 2.0 driven look at creating a citation list. You use the web based interface to search for your item, then you save it to a list, and finally export that list to your word processor. It sounds easy; and it is. However; there are a number of gaps in the results and still a number of slight problems to work out. I think they are on the right track though and wouldn’t be surprised if something similar wouldn’t be absorbed by a large company soon.

Zotero is a tool that I have taken a liking to and have shared with many of my colleagues. One of the more robust Firefox extensions, this tool sits at the bottom of your browser until you need it. The most effective use of Zotero is at the instance of an item in a library catalog or database. It reads the format of the record and creates a citation record that you can save to a collection. Exporting to most word processors is easy enough and you can format the citation into several major styles. Sharing between one computer and another is as fast as exporting your “library” and then importing it to Zotero on the second computer. You are able to edit the records (if something goes awry in the import) and even add notes or files to each record. Though the ability to share with others isn’t ingrained in this system, sharing a library wouldn’t be impossible.

On a different note, a tool called Refbase allows you to create a repository of documents and their subsequent bibliographic records, into an easy to search system. Refbase could be useful for librarians to assist in their academic institution’s scholarly communication and self-archiving campaigns.

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