Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How can anyone survive without Endnote?

Endnote software is an absolutely essential part of my work process. I use it all the time and it would be hard to carry on with writing, research, and teaching without it. I am constantly amazed at colleagues and students who do not use Endnote, or one of the other bibliography databases. With Endnote you can’t leave citations our of your bibliography by accident, you don’t have to cut and paste bibliographies, you don’t have to reformat references by hand for different journals. You can download citations from the library and from many online databases, and you can exchange bibliography files with colleagues. Its easy to compile bibliographies on particular topics or themes for students or others.

My views of bibliographies and references may not be typical. I am a bibliography nut. I want to have all the relevant sources (for whatever purpose or project) at hand. Of various potential criticisms of my papers or proposals, one of the worst for me would be that I had missed one or more major sources on a topic. When I look at a new paper or publication, I often start with the bibliography. Who is citing what? I often judge the usefulness of works by whether or not I have gotten some new useful citations from the bibliography. I am impressed when students cite good sources I’m not familiar with. I could not have done a good job at some professional tasks without Endnote, including a book review editor, and a contributing editor (Handbook of Latin American Studies).

When I started graduate school, fellow student Clark Erickson was keeping his bibliographies on 3x5 index cards in old library card-catalog drawers. I quickly followed suit, and by the time I started using bibliography software in the late 1980s I had 8 or 10 drawers full of cards. I still have those old cards sitting around somewhere (I almost tossed them when I moved from Albany to Arizona). My Endnote file now has over 13,000 entries.

No, I’m not being paid by the makers of Endnote. In fact, I have some complaints about the program and the company. But I couldn’t live (as a scholar) without Endnote or something similar, and I’m amazed at people who manage without it. I’d rather be writing papers (or blogs) instead of copying and pasting references from one paper into another (and leaving some out in the process).

4 comments:

Paul Wren said...

Endnote sounds wonderful, but at my university (Arizona State) the student price is $109 (it's almost $200 forfaculty/staff). As an alternative, the ASU Library has acquired a campus-wide license for RefWorks, a web-based application that sounds similar to Endnote.

You can add citations int RefWorks directly from the ASU Library search results, Google Scholar, and other indexes. You can import Endnote files into it, as well.

It also will format your bibliographies for about 100 different styles, including American Antiquity.

The downside is that you must be connected to the internet to use it, of course.

The upside is that, well, it's free! At least it is for me as long as I'm enrolled...

I have not done any investigations to see how many universities are offering RefWorks, but it seems like it would be worth looking into if you are a cash-challenged student.

Stefano Costa said...

What about BibTeX? It's free, customizable to any format, works on all platforms including GNU/Linux (that's what I am using since 2005). CiteULike provides BibTeX output.

For all my exams I need to write short reports, and all of them have their bibliographic references. I use LaTeX of course. See here for an example (in Italian, sorry about that).

However, I agree with the general idea that we all should have our bibliographic databases in good shape, and possibly share them.

Michael E. Smith said...

Yeah, yeah, I should have said "how can anyone survive without a bibliography database." Endnote just happens to be the one I use, and its pretty widely used. Refworks is fine too, although for my patterns of work it has some disadvantages.

MacKensie said...

Thanks for the tips everyone, I currently use Zotero (http://www.zotero.org/) a free Firefox add-on, which fits my needs quite nicely.