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Building citations

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We've written before about why you should care about citation management software, but I've found that for a significant percentage, it remains an item on their ever expanding to-do list.  The reasons for this make sense and range from not feeling technologically savvy enough to add one more software package to just not being able to find a comfortable time to adopt a new work flow.  Still the process of manually typing in every citation continues to be overwhelming to me.  If a full-fledged citation management tool, such as EndNote, Zotero or even Mendely, seem to difficult to add, let me suggest a couple others that may prove easier to incorporate.

One of my favorites is OttoBib.  Even though it is not perfect, it has an extremely clean interface and all you need to enter is the book's ISBN (International Standard Book Number), which is easily found on the book's back cover or copyright information page.  If you no longer have the book handy, perhaps a library book you already returned, you can find it in the library catalogue by examining the MARC Format tab.  That tab is a bit confusing so here's a screenshot to help you navigate it; the ISBN is in the 020 field, which is easy enough to copy/paste into OttoBib.  


OttoBib gives you the option to choose between MLA, APA Chicago, BibTex or Wikipedia and generates the entry for your bibliography; you'll still have to type your own footnotes or in-text citations.  The only drawback to OttoBib is that it often fails to employ headline style capitalization for the title in the Chicago style.  However, it is really simple to clean up your bibliography afterwards.

There are other options, too like Citation Builder, which is good but requires the user to complete all the fields (author, title, publisher, etc...).  An increasing number of databases, such as ATLA and Academic Search Premier, provide an option to how to cite as well.  Again this will only be for the bibliography but remains a significant time saver. 

My hope is that if you find one of these useful, you'll eventually be persuaded to try EndNote or Zotero, which also format footnotes and in-text citations.  I would never claim that using a citation management tool is fun, but it can improve your efficiency and give you more time to work on your writing and the structure of your argument instead of what needs to be italicized and the placement of commas.

Image by Flickr user bucklava / CC licensed.