Using reference management software - Using technology to help you

Success in Academic Writing - Trevor Day 2018

Using reference management software
Using technology to help you

If you are writing a long document that cites many references, it can be worthwhile to use reference management software such as BibTeX, EndNote, Endnote Web, Mendeley, Procite, Reference Manager, RefWorks or Zotero to organise your citing and referencing. Such software creates a personal bibliographic database, to which you can add notes about each source. The software allows you to choose a specific name-date referencing system, such as that of the American Psychological Association (APA), or a numeric system, such as Vancouver. You can change from one referencing system to another, almost at the click of a mouse button. When using word-processing packages such as Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect, the software will routinely insert citations in your text in the correct format for your referencing system. Increasingly, library-accessible databases such as Web of Knowledge, SciDirect and ProQuest allow you to download reference details directly into your reference management database.

A word of warning: I suggest you only use reference management software after you have mastered how to cite and reference manually. You need to appreciate the great precision you must employ - both in citation and in referencing. You also need to develop confidence in knowing how to cite to best effect, to underpin the elements of your argument. Using automated software such as EndNote, before you have fully appreciated the power and precision of correct citing, may encourage shallow thinking and taking shortcuts. Most importantly, without having appreciated what it takes to create a bibliography or reference list manually, you are much more likely to overlook errors and

inconsistencies. Not all sources you find may have a bibliographic reference that you can download or copy and paste into the reference management software. So, at some point you are likely to have to type in information manually. In any case, reference management software, like any other software, is not foolproof. You need to be aware of its limitations, and correct for them, which is only possible if you have learnt the rules of citing and referencing, starting with the basics.