Bibliographic Software: Programs for Academic Writing

With this post I have added a new category: Dissertation. This will be the place for posts related to work on my D.Min. dissertation (more about that later).

The past few days I have been trying to come to a decision about the method I will use to manage citations and bibliographic information from my research. The programs that are used for this are usually called Bibliographic Software. These programs generally do some or all of the following:

  • use a database to keep track of referenced works which will eventually appear in the bibliography
  • generate properly formatted footnotes according to MLA, Chicago, etc.
  • when the paper is finished, generate a properly formatted bibliography
  • some also provide a way to take notes (quotations) from resources, and a way to organize and search them

Those are the basic functions. Some programs also include a word processor. Others are integrated with MS Word, and will insert a footnote with a single mouse click.

Here are the criteria that I decided to look for in a program for my use:

  • generate properly formatted footnotes directly into MS Word
  • support for a variety of styles (MLA, etc.), and ability to define custom styles (for all those journal articles I hope to write some day ;-))
  • when the paper is finished, automatically scan through and correct footnote references to the proper form for first references and subsequent references to a source (this is a very cool feature found in some of these programs)
  • provide a way to take notes, and link the notes to the source so that when I paste in the note the footnote automatically appears
  • cost no more than $100 (some of these programs cost $400 or more!)

It’s difficult to find a program that meets all of my criteria, but some are pretty close.
Here are the main contenders so far:

  1. Scholar’s Aid — A very capable program, with a free version that is useful. Unlike most, this program has an integrated note manager. The only missing feature is the ability to adjust the footnotes at the end. The web site has a note saying that this will be added in the next version. I sent them an email asking when that might be available, but as of yet I have not received a reply.
  2. Biblioscape — The Standard edition looks good, but there is not a demo that I can download and test. They do have a free version, but does not seem to adjust the footnotes as the Standard version apparently does.
  3. Bibliographix — This one also looks interesteing. It inserts footnotes in a temporary format, which allows it to come back and update them to final form when the paper is finished. There is a free basic version which is actually quite powerful. There is a module to manage ideas, which could be used to record quotations, but it doesn’t seem to provide the one click functionality that Scholar’s Aid does for inserting quotations with a footnote. It does provide the update footnotes feature, but I had a lot of trouble trying to get it to work properly.

I will add to this post as I continue to work on this. . .

Added 10-13-05
Here is a good overview of this type of software and what it can do.
I have downloaded a trial version of Endnote, a popular bibliographic program. The academic version is about $100 on line. So far I really like it.

2 Responses to Bibliographic Software: Programs for Academic Writing

  • morten jensen says:

    what about library manager from balboa software. designed by a biblical scholar. highly flexible – with noteard system: http://www.balboa-software.com

  • PK says:

    I don’t recall seeing Library Master when I was looking for biblographic software. From a quick look through the web site, it seems like a very capable program. The student price of $124.95 is only a little more than what I paid for EndNote.

    From the web site, I’m not quite clear on whether or not it allows you to enter notes from your sources, classify them by keywords or tags, and link them to references in the biblographic database. A number of other programs allow you to enter some research notes in the bibliographic record for a source, but that is not the same thing.

    If I was just getting started, I would download the free demo and try it out. Hopefully your suggestion will be helpful to my readers.

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