Saturday, February 11, 2006

Reader's question: citation software

A reader (hey, stop snickering!) asked me about software to create citations recently, and I had to admit to being totally clueless. When writing on the computer, I generally keep a copy of the MLA Handbook near at hand and an extra open wordprocessing file, and enter citation information as I go.

Does anyone have experience with software that creates or manages citations?

Suggestions for good software, or warnings about bad software?



  1. I use Endnote. It works just fine (it has a couple of limitations, but in my advancing age, I don't feel like learning a new program, and it's much better to have a program than to have to type in my citations every time.)

  2. I agree - EndNote is pretty cool. The thing I like best about it is that you can catalogue things other than books. For example, I keep around a lot of image files and so you can have an entry that reads something like "Wooden statue of the Blessed Virgin, c. 1340, German" and link to the file. So, when you open the citation in EndNote, it automatically pulls the file up from your hard drive and shows it to you. I think that's awesome.

    Plus, you don't have to actually enter the information for your books by hand. You can access a library catalogue online (Oxford, Yale, Stanford, wherever) within the context of EndNote and search by author or title. Once you've found the same book and edition you have, you just drag the library citation and drop it into your list of citations. Done. All the info (translators, number of pages, any notes - and, if you use your own library's catalogue, the call numbers) is imported directly into the correct format.

  3. I am a Mac user and used Bookends when writing my dissertation. Does pretty much what EndNote does but s Mac OS X only.

  4. Wow, thanks gang!

    I'm clueless about such things. Do you really find them that helpful?

    (In other words, should I run out and get a copy of EndNote or smething [ibm format user here]?)

  5. I am relentless in my praises of EndNote. So I say, RUN do not walk to go buy it.

    Excuse me while I cash that check from EndNote...

    Right, I think it depends on your working style, really. I am in the process of dissertating and I find that it is useful to keep track of the bajillion different sources somewhere other than my ubiquitous purple post-it notes. To be fair, it takes a little time to get familiar with the EndNote format (even though I am a dyed-in-the-wool Mac user, Cheryl, I have never tried do you like it?). But it works like this when you use it:

    (1) Enter in all your sources that are scattered on your desk/floor/cat (or download them directly from your library catalogue).

    (2) Select your output style for citations (MLA, Chicago, a specific journal, etc.)

    (3) Write, write, write, write...oh, time for a citation! Insert footnote and select (still all within MS Word) "find citation," and type in the keyword (author, title, whatever).

    (4) There it is! Click "insert".

    (5) Bang! Perfectly formatted footnote, and a bibliographic entry further down the page.

    I think it's super cool. But if your word document side-by-side method works for you, then there you go. Saving money is goooooooooood....

  6. Wow, that really DOES sound handy.

    Thanks, Katie!

  7. I take polls when I give lectures. Most use End Note. The next most popular is Pro Cite.

    I've never tried either -- since I don't write those kind of papers any more -- but I tell everyone I work with to start using them if they don't already.

  8. Every academic I've ever talked into getting a citation management program has later thanked me profusely. The hassle of learning the system is well worth it, they say. Often Universities support one particular program and you can get it cheaply.

  9. Wow, thanks, AC, I think I'm becoming convinced!