Citing references in papers has always been a tough nut to crack. Everyone has their own preferences and style when it comes to writing, and different scientific journals all have their own specifications for how to cite references. Some people swear by LaTeX and BibTeX, others use word and Endnote.
While writing my thesis, I’ve come across a set of applications that I believe can be useful for almost any and everyone who is writing a paper.
To start with, you likely have a ton of PDFs saved to your computer from previous research. Don’t worry, I have the perfect tool for that. Mendeley has an amazing tool that combines lots of great services into one application. It allows you sort, highlight and annotate PDFs, scans PDFs for bibliographical information, syncs the PDFs with an online space (so you can use it across multiple computers such as home, office and lab) and has plugins for Microsoft Word and Openoffice Writer to quickly and easily insert references and automatically generates bibliographies in any of the many prepackaged journal styles. Mendeley works on Windows, Mac and Linux as well as iOS devices. This application has a great interface. You can set a folder on your computer as a “watch folder” and any time an item is dropped into that folder it is automatically scanned for bibliographical info and added to your list of documents. It can also export the references as BibTex, RIS or Endnote XML. It has many other options as well, but these are the main ones I use.
Next, you need something that will allow you to cite items from the web. This is useful because many scientific journals have all of their bibliographical information available on the web pages of the paper you might be interested in. This information can be scraped by a browser plugin and exported to any format you need, or piped directly into Mendeley. For this task, I have selected two tools. The first is Zotero. It is amazingly good at scraping info. There’s a firefox plugin that autodetects different types of source material and placed a tiny icon in the address bar of the webpage. Clicking this icon automatically saves the source. If the website you are using doesn’t have the correct information in the reference, you can search the papers DOI number in Zotero and it will automatically fill out all the information and store the reference. This is a requirement for using Zotero with IEEE Xplore as Zotero has a problem scraping that particular database. Using the “add by DOI” button is invaluable for these papers. Zotero also allows you to create a source form any webpage you might be on by clicking the “Create new Item From Current Page” button. This saves an HTML snapshot of the page as well as fills in access date and Page Title information. Again the resulting sources can be exported in several format, can be synched between computers and can even be piped directly to Mendeley.
The second tool for citing things on the web is the Mendeley bookmarklet that you can install in your browser’s bookmarks toolbar. Simply click this while you are on the page you are currently looking at and it will automatically send it to Mendeley. I haven’t had a lot of exerience with this tool just yet as I only recently found it.
As I mentioned before, Mendeley has a plugin for Openoffice. Simple click “insert citation” button in the Openoffice toolbar, go to the Mendeley application window, select the source you want to cite, and click “Send Citation to OpenOffice.” Once this is done, the citation pops up in openoffice. I recommends placing the cursor at the end of your document and clicking “Insert Bibliography” after your first reference is made. This will automatically update with every reference you add, and it will even renumber and rearrange the references if you add more references within your documents.
You can change the style by selecting the “Choose Citation Style” from the Mendeley Toolbar in OpenOffice. Mendeley uses Citation Style Language (CSL) to format citations. You can edit this code yourself, it is very easy. The citations are in the installation directory of Mendeley (C:/Program Files/MendeleyDesktop/citationStyles-1.0 on Windows, <installation folder>/mendeleydesktop-0.9.7.1-linux-i486/share/mendeleydesktop/citationStyles-1.0 in Linux ). In fact, I modified the IEEE format to include web addresses and access dates. You can download my style here. (Right click and save as.) To use it, download it to the styles directory I mentioned above and replace the “.txt” file extension with “.csl” and restart Mendeley for the change to take affect. You can find the style in either Mendeley or in the OpenOffice plugin “Choose Citation Style.”
If you are interested in what these styles look like, you can check out Zotero’s online style guide. Place your mouse over the style you are interested in to see an example of the format.
I hope this helps some of you figure out a workable method for citations in your papers. I fumbled around for along time until I found these applications, and since, references have been MUCH less stressful.