What is the easiest way to index pre-existing bibliographies?
September 2, 2007 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Bibliographic software newbie question: given an enormous backlog of hand-written bibliographies, what's my best bet for producing a database and integrating it with a book manuscript? I'd like to be able to push a button and change citation styles. No arduous data-entry, please.

I've never taken the leap into Endnote et al, but I have some limited experience with Word 2007's reference panel. Now, it seems, I need to change, and fast. I'd like to be able to push a button and change inline citation styles. So:

1. What is the easiest way to index pre-existing bibliographies? Let's say I have fifteen pages of references saved as a Word document. Is there a citation sniffer that'll pull out the entries or some other import function I can use?

2. What software should I use? Is Word's new stuff robust enough? (I'm in the humanities.)
posted by anotherpanacea to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You might find this helpful. Never use RefWorks.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:10 PM on September 2, 2007

Response by poster: I read that. But it doesn't include info on getting your old bibliographies into the database.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:48 PM on September 2, 2007

Zotero may help you here. It is a manager for Bibtex entries (this is a very common bibliographic format in the sciences, less so in the humanities). It can "sniff" for references on a webpage since it's a firefox plugin. So post your stuff on the net and then surf your browser to that page. Then fire up zotero and hopefully it'll find all the refs and you'll be good to go. YMMV since I've never done this. But I've seen somebody using zotero and it seemed pretty damn sweet.
posted by zpousman at 7:12 PM on September 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As a freelance editor, I've had to put other people's bibliographies into EndNote before. It's not too hard once you get a rhythm going. For one job I did 250+ citations in about 4 hours (this was in the medical field). My system was to use Google Scholar and select the option to "show links to import citations into EndNote" under Scholar Preferences. This allowed me to mostly avoid data entry, other than typing a few words from the title for each citation. Seems you could use the same system with BibTex or RefMan, too.

Having used EndNote and RefMan, I recommend EndNote - it is far easier to use. With either one, it is very easy to switch citation styles. The very best thing about using bibliographic software over Word's crappy reference system is the ability to cite refs more than once and have the system keep track of duplicates for you. It rocks.
posted by acridrabbit at 7:15 PM on September 2, 2007

LaTeX's bibliography format -- BibTex -- is just plain text with special codes, like HTML. If your Word file is suitably structured, you can just do a set of find and replaces to turn

Author: "Mike Jones"
Author = {Mike Jones},

though, depending on the format of your bibliography, you might need an advanced find/replace, like a tool called "grep". Lots of text editors offer grep-style find and replace.

2. What software should I use? Is Word's new stuff robust enough? (I'm in the humanities.)
LaTeX, LaTeX, LaTex.
Changing citation styles is ludicrously easy with LaTeX. I don't know how much time you've got to invest, but the couple of days it takes to learn it up repay themselves many, many times. I laugh with delight every time I have to do academic writing. I usually write right up till the last minute, and then I run the text through latex, and print. It always comes out perfectly formatted, with citations and bibliography done to style.

I don't have to worry about anything beyond what I want the words to say. Ever. Even two minutes with an "Insert Footnote..." or "Insert pagebreak" are two minutes too many. Basically, LaTeX was born for academic typesetting. Word was, god I don't know what it was born for, but it's mutated into this horrible file-mangling beast.

Check the AskMe archives: how many Word questions are there along the lines of "My thesis is due tomorrow and Word is fucking up"? Don't be one of those folks. Word is trouble.
posted by bonaldi at 8:41 PM on September 2, 2007

posted by number9dream at 10:07 PM on September 2, 2007

LaTeX/BibTeX. (Or possibly biblatex, if the long-awaited 0.7 comes out in time.)

More here, including a caveat: if you're not working with a settled citation and bibliography format, LaTeX is more trouble than it's worth, and even EndNote may require plenty of hand-tweaking. Genuine one-click citation management and reformatting has been just around the corner for at least the last fifteen years.
posted by holgate at 10:23 PM on September 2, 2007

I agree with acridrabbit. Endnote is the best I've found, and what all the grad students and professors I've interacted with seem to prefer.

Like any of them, it'll take a bit to set up your initial "library" of articles, but once you do that it's SO much easier.
posted by doppleradar at 7:17 AM on September 3, 2007

Response by poster: That Zotero was so tempting. It doesn't seem to sniff out the citations when I dumped them into an entry on my blog.

Bratman, Michael. 1987. Intention, Plans and Practical Reason. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.)
--1999. Faces of Intention: Selected Essays on Intention and Agency (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:04 AM on September 3, 2007

Response by poster: Nor even the single cite here.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:10 AM on September 3, 2007

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