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Bibliographic Software

November 29, 2007
Categorized as: Education, Software

As a graduate student I've amassed a large number of research articles and books. The question is, how do you keep all of this information organized as to be able to find information later? The answer is: bibliography software. There are many options available for both Windows and Mac but the two clear leaders are Zotero and Endnote. For a while now I've been using both; Zotero to collect reference and Endnote to manage citations.

Zotero, which is a Firefox plugin, makes the process of adding references to you library incredibly easy. When viewing a page (e.g. from EBSCO or you simply click an icon in the address bar and magically all of the data is imported into you personal library. You can even attach (or take a snapshot) of web pages and/or PDF files when available. Once a reference is in your library you can attach tags (think keywords), notes, or any other file (e.g. PDF, Word document, csv, etc). With all your references collected into a single repository it becomes very easy to find that article from a few years ago.

But collecting and organizing your references is only the beginning. Zotero and Endnote both include a Microsoft Word plugin (Zotero also has a plugin for OpenOffice) that will assist in adding citations from your library (Endnote calls this Cite While You Write, or CWYW). When you reach a point where you need to insert a citation, you click a button on the provided toolbar. This will then take you to your library where you can search and find the desired reference(s). Click insert and your citation is placed at the cursor. Both programs provide a wide variety of styles including APA, Chicago, and MLA not to mention many different journal specific formats.

When using citations you're inevitably going to need a references page. Endnote will do this automatically once you insert your first citation. Zotero will also automatically manage your reference page but you first have to insert it where you would like (it's just one click on Zotero toolbar).

My workflow until now has involved collecting references with Zotero, exporting my library in RIS format (using RIS instead of Endnote, which Zotero supports, will preserve notes), and then importing the exported library to Endnote. This is because the beta version of Zotero did not format citations exactly write. However, with the official 1.0 version of Zotero out, it's Word plugin is just as good as Endnote's. At this point I would recommend that everyone get started with Zotero (it is free after all!) especially given that you can easily move your library from Zotero to Endnote later if necessary. That said, many universities and institutions have invested in Endnote. Plus Endnote allows for separate libraries which, when collaborating with colleagues, can be useful when sharing. Zotero provides one library but does have collections within the library. Which every your choice, Zotero is the clear winner for collecting your references.

For completion sake, I've included the list of all the bibliographic software, along with their prices (as of this writing), that may worth looking into. Some of these have been designed for specific disciplines so it may be worth looking into if you have specific needs that Zotero or Endnote does not satisify.

Name Platform Regular Price Student Price
Biblio Windows $49  
Bibliographix Windows 98 Euro 49 Euro
Biblioscape Windows $139 $99
Bookends Mac $99 $69
Citation Windows $99  
Endnote X1 Windows/Mac $250 $110
Library Master Windows $249 $125
PowerRef Windows $129 $69
Scholar's Aide 4 AE Windows $149 $99
SquareNote Windows $49  
Zotero Windows/Mac/Linux FREE FREE
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