Bibliography management tools – any suggestions?

I’m writing an article at the moment, for publication.  I’ve got too much bibliography for me to remember everything any more.

I’ve got lists of articles on bits of paper, and no idea, in some cases, why I looked at something.  I’ve got folders full of PDF’s.  And I’m forgetting stuff.  Stuff that I know I need to look at.

This cannot be an unusual experience.  It must happen to everyone doing a PhD.  But those days are long behind me, and we didn’t have computers in those days.

So what do people use?  There must be software to help this along.  Maybe even that stores PDF’s, so I can access my research from anywhere?

An example of the sort of thing that I don’t want to clutter my head with came up today.  One article that I read referred to Eusebius Church History, and suggested that Eusebius can’t have written the quotations himself; they must have been done by literary sidekicks.  The article referenced T.D. Barnes’ Constantine and Eusebius.  I got hold of this, and he does say it, but didn’t research it.  Instead he references Lawlor and Oulton’s old SPCK translation (vol. 2 has a preface with a discussion in it), plus a general article from Texte und Untersuchungen on Eusebius’ methods in general.

What I will want to use is the Lawlor and Oulton reference.  But I don’t want to lose the chain of references.  I don’t want to end up wondering why I have a photocopy of two pages of the Barnes article on my disk.  In fact I don’t want to see that Barnes article, except when I am following that reference in the main article; it’s just clutter on the disk.

So … suggestions?  What should I be using?

I vaguely recall people saying “Zotero”.  Will that cope with my needs?

10 thoughts on “Bibliography management tools – any suggestions?

  1. Bibdesk for Mac is by far the best out there. It links to your documents wherever they are on your system. Especially if you get into LaTeX/BiBTeX which I wish more in the field would.

    Jabref is a comparable alternative that is on Windows.

  2. I haven’t seen Zotero. It may do one or the other or both of these jobs:

    I use Microsoft OneNote, and then EndNote.

    OneNote is structured enough to be useful, but unstructured enough to be flexible. I use it as a semi-structured series of buckets to store source documents. It installs a printer driver into Windows so that you can “print to OneNote”. Using that feature, you can print a scanned PDF into OneNote, which will do a background image-to-text conversion, allowing you then to search the document. You can annotate, highlight, etc. too. The best part is the search features, which are suited to searching for quotations across many source docs.

    OneNote has some “hidden” features too. If you do it right, notes you make in one panel are automatically linked back to the other panel that you have open at the time, providing an automatic hyperlink to the source – great for building an annotated bibliography.

    Then EndNote manages the actual Bibliographic data. You can import directly from journal databases and Worldcat.org, etc. I think it’s equivalent to the LaTeX/BiBTeX that someone else mentioned.

  3. It depends on what you would like to do with the bibliography software, I tried a lot of them and definitely prefer Zotero. You can import and export records very easily, it has large flexibility, and it is free.

    I’ve often thought that someone should go through and make proper bibliographical citations of all of the major patristic series'(CSCO, PO, SC, etc.) importing records is fine, but typically you have to edit them when the sources are older or are in other languages. It is a bit time consuming, but the snowball effect kicks in and once you start using sources that you have already made an entry for things begin to really speed up.

    Let me know what you think of Zotero, I would be interested in hearing your opinion.

  4. I’d also recommend Zotero. I keep many of my pdfs on it. I also keep chains of references of the type you describe using the Zotero links tab. Zotero is a good match with open-access principles too, because you can later share your mature bibliography online if you so choose. Phoebe Acheson has put some collections of this type online at Ancient World Open Bibliographies http://ancientbiblio.wordpress.com/

  5. I have to correct myself: the tabs are called info (the actual bibliographic info including “abstract” for your assessment of the source); notes (where I keep quotes from the work); tags (which allows grouping); and related (which is what I meant by links, where a Barnes could link back to Lawlor/Oulton).

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