Posts Tagged 'rules'

Hushing Librarian

Found at Waxin’ & Milkin’.

Citation 2.0: How to Quickly and Easily Create Citations

At a time when concerns over intellectual property and plagiarism are (thankfully) at a fever pitch, is constructing a citation or bibliography still more of a headache than a pleasure? It doesn’t have to be! Web 2.0 and citation software has wiped away those dark times when the average student would have to consult a manual of style. (For easy-to-use, but non-authoritative manuals for ALA, MLA, Chicago, and CSE/CBE, check out Diana Hacker’s website, Research and Documentation Online.)

Web-based citation generation is one of the most prolific new ways to quickly nab a citation. In most cases, these services are free and intuitive to use. OttoBib only requires a user to plug in ISBNs and select one (of five) citations styles for output. Pros include that you can bulk generate by inputting multiple ISBNs separated by commas. Cons include the fact that you don’t know where citations are coming from, they are often incomplete or incorrect, and that OttoBib can only generate citations for books. A superior alternative to this is WorldCat. Simply find the record of the document you wish to cite. You can either copy and paste – click “Cite this Item” to select from five styles – or export to EndNote or RefWorks. (More on those big players later.) The best thing about WorldCat is that OCLC’s cataloging records (from which the citations are drawn) are almost always pristine, ensuring a quality citation time and again. Many databases, such as Credo Reference, also provide citations in a manner similar to WorldCat.

Calvin College’s KnightCite – designed in 2004 by Justin Searls – is slightly more time consuming that WorldCat, but allows users to cite a wide variety of materials: websites, journal articles, encyclopedias, images, etc. (KnightCite FAQ) Text input is manual. However, the website formats everything. Value added features include the ability to switch between styles without losing your current citation information, add more authors/editors/translators dynamically, and register (which opens “the door to creating free, accurate, and complete bibliographies that are easy to manage, organize, and export into the most popular text formats”). (KnightCite Registration)

There are two major contenders when it comes to citation and bibliography software: RefWorks and Endnote. The former, as a web-based subscription system, is popularly thought of as easier to use and has extensive online training materials. However, the latter has a strong hold on the sciences and may be the more prudent financial choice: EndNote carries a one-time fee, while RefWorks has an annual subscription fee of $100 dollars. (RefWorks) Most Universities offer both programs for free or at a discount. Once a student graduates they will have EndNote until it is outdated, but unless they start paying that subscription fee RefWorks will not allow them to add to or manipulate their bibliographies. An excellent chart comparing the two, created by Christina Woo and Susan Jones, can be found here (PDF, 32 KB).

Free, web-based bibliographic tools and for-profit apps all have their pitfalls: Neither type may be able to render an APA citation properly because of the style’s strict capitalization rules. Similarly, people generating on a citation-by-citation basis may ignore the rules of constructing a final bibliography. (Should there be a hanging indent? A dash instead of a surname? Ibid?) Often, students are at the mercy of the hidden records used to generate citations. As they say, garbage in, garbage out. (I was burned when importing sloppy MARC records using RefWorks.) Also, instructors and journals often have very specific standards for citing material; bibliographic tools very rarely have output options this specific. In the end, to create the best bibliography possible, it is important to have a firm understanding of the style in which you are working.

However, to jump easily to a half-way point, go ahead and familiarize yourself with these tools. I personally use WorldCat and KnightCite for most of my bibliographies. When I have to construct a very large bibliography, I recommend EndNote over RefWorks.

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