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Maneuvering through the Citation Minefield

By bioexact, Feb 18 2015 03:54PM

Most researchers are aware that scientific journals adopt very different writing styles. Reformatting manuscripts from one journal to another can be time-consuming and introduce errors, especially when transforming a reference list from Harvard style (name, year) to Vancouver (numbers).


Fortunately, there are several bibliographic tools and reference managers (RMs) to take the strain out of organizing citation lists. Besides being able to format and organize a reference list in a word processing program, many (eg, Mendeley, Zotero) can also import citations from online databases and publisher’s websites. In most cases, some editing of the reference list will still be required, as RMs tend to fall short in correcting journal abbreviations and changing paper titles to sentence case. A small amount of editing, however, is a big improvement on reformatting a whole reference list manually.


Some RMs are only accessible online while others have desktop access too. Many are free to use but some require a subscription. The following RMs are popular with scientists:


Endnote: Fee-based desktop access, free online. endnote.com

CiteULike: Free online. citeulike.org

Mendeley: Free online with synchronizing desktop access. Plug-in for MS Word. mendeley.com

RefWorks: Fee-paying online. refworks.com

Zotero: Free browser plug-in. zotero.org


Gilmour and Cobus-Kuo (2011) compared four RMs for a range of features. They found that each of the RMs had various strengths and weaknesses which could depend on the user’s requirements. They gave Mendeley the highest cumulative score followed closely by Zotero, with CiteULike lacking in several areas and scoring lowest.


Gilmour R, Cobus-Kuo L. Reference management software: a comparative analysis of four products. 2011; doi: 10.5062/F4Z60KZF [Article]


Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_management_software


Choosing a citation manager: www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/lls/choose_citation_mgr.html


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News feed author Dr S Bowen.