Why Citation Management Software Matters

Why does the library invest in citation management software? Why do so many librarians spend time promoting, teaching, and supporting citation management software to students and faculty? Are we wasting time and effort?

Books with notesAs a student or scholar, we have all had some unforgettable moments when we had to look for a reference in a pile of articles at the last minute, because we lost the notes where we had recorded that piece of reference. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have something that could keep our notes well stored and easily accessible?

Citation management software is a kind of computer program that can serve this purpose. It catches references and stores them in a local or web-based space and automatically produces the bibliography as well as in-text citations for a word processing document, such as Microsoft Word, according to your choice of citation style. The special coding added into the Word document allows you to edit your work any time by adding, moving, and deleting citations as well as switching to another citation style if needed.

Citations get organized

Moreover, I also see citation management software as a great tool to accumulate and organize ideas due to the ability to make notes. Let’s take the example of RefWorks. After you import a reference to your RefWorks account, you may add your notes to this reference. For an account created for a group project, each member of this group may create his own note for a reference. We all understand why making notes is so important – it is not a simple message of a few words, but an idea which might lead to a breakthrough for your research work in the future! Therefore, the citation software is not only a container of citations, but also a library of ideas.

As we move on in our studies, we develop our research interests and get used to browsing certain publications on a regular basis. Having a powerful tool to keep the references and notes together will make it smooth and efficient. When enough ideas have been absorbed and digested, a new research topic might form. We can easily open our citation software, create folders and sub-folders to structure our topic, and then simply move the corresponding citations as well as the attached notes to where they fit. We may also draw a literature map or fill out a literature matrix to make our ideas and citations more visible. The next step is to enjoy the fun of citing references while writing your literature review.

McGill Library supports citation tools, like EndNote, RefWorks, Reference Manager, etc., in many ways, such as offering either the desktop version for downloading or access to the web-based software, delivering training workshops throughout the year, answering email questions, and giving individual consultations by librarians. Information about accessing or downloading software can be found here. Want to attend a training session? Please find one that fits your schedule.

Books with notes, from guardian.co.uk
Citation get organized, from flickr

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