A cite for sore eyes…

It’s that time of semester again when most reference questions I get seem to have something to do with punctuation, a DOI, or placement of footnotes. Yep, happy citation season, to one and all! Despite running workshops and creating webpages on citation formatting, it’s often hard to get even graduate students interested in citation management programs. And up till now, finicky was a polite way to describe most of the existing software. But the spread of web 2.0 is such that it has even caught up with the MLA and the APA- and has created a new class of, dare I say it, fun and user friendly tools.
One of the most exciting new kids on the block is Mendeley (http://www.mendeley.com). While fulfilling most regular requirements of a citation management program (stores citations, cite in MS Word, web and desktop access) it also stores and organizes PDFs as well as allowing PDF annotation and provides easy importing into Mendeley, including a genius “watched folder” function for automatic importing. And that’s not all! One of the best features is the online research catalog that it maintains, allowing users to track article citations, follow experts, find recommendations for articles and more. By hooking up with the inherent citation networks in academic publishing, Mendeley is taking advantage of the interconnectedness of the web- instead of trying to smush all results haphazardly into one search box, the development du jour in many libraries today. I know which is more helpful for me, as a librarian… Oh and did I mention that a basic account is free? And it has a mobile app?!
Colwiz (http://www.colwiz.com) is another similar program. Although it is not as widely known as Mendeley, it provides many excellent features, particularly for group work. It may be worth pointing out that both excellent programs were designed in the UK. (Note nationality of columnist and draw appropriate conclusions!)
Longer standing citation management programs are trying to keep up. Refworks (http://www.refworks.com) has released its 2.0 version- as well as a mobile app for citations on the go. Endnote (https://www.myendnoteweb.com) also has a new web version and an app. Zotero, (http://www.zotero.org) which was king of the free citation programs for so long, is responding by releasing a version that does not rely on the Firefox browser, as well as a mobile app. Zotero still manages to deal with web pages better than Mendeley so with these new developments, the citation “lucha libre” may get even more exciting.
Another final class of new citation programs include apps for smart phones that allow users to scan materials from their phone in order to generate a citation. Quick cite (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/quick-cite/id405796616?mt=8) is one such program, although it is obviously limited to book citing.
In the craziness of the end of semester these programs won’t help panicked students. But reaction has been so positive to these tools that it may be worth mentioning them next semester as honors projects and Masters theses wrap up. All that I have tried so far seem to work well with foreign characters too, so there is no excuse 🙂 It looks like in 2012, citing = sexy again- who would have thought it!
Alison Hicks
alison.hicks @ colorado.edu