I have made the resolution to use software to manage my citations more than once. At the beginning of my MA I took a course on Endnote and dutifully used it to produce my master’s dissertation, which probably wasn’t necessary seeing as it was a twenty-five page dissertation with about thirty works cited. At the beginning of my PhD, I took a course on Refworks and started gathering material there, but didn’t stick with it. All in all this was okay; I actually found the recent week I had to spend sorting out my references for that project rather soothing on the whole. I think it gave me the feeling of being productive without having to reflect on the quality of my arguments and analysis.
I’m not sure why I’ve never stuck with citation software through a longer project–maybe the annoyance of taking the extra step of entering data when I can find it again so easily. But, as I started in on a couple of new projects, one in the digital humanities, and another involving compiling extensive author bibliographies, it became apparent to me that I’d do well to smarten up and use software.
So… now I’m using Zotero, and at the risk of sounding like a before and after ad, I have to say it’s amazing. The project, developed by the Roy Rosenweig Center for History and New Media and funded by the likes of Mellon, integrates with your web browser so that all you have to do is click in the corner of the address bar and it downloads all of the bibliographic information into your library. So, if I was looking at Martha Stoddard Holmes’s Fictions of Affliction on Google Books, or the MLA bibliography online, all I would have to do is click and all the information would download into the program. Then, when I go to cite her in a paper I’m writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, a little Zotero logo appears on top that allows me to insert a field for citation, and will put the citation in any form from MLA to Chicago Style. Which is good for those of us who can never remember how Chicago style works!
I know that Refworks and Endnote allowed you to export bibliographic out of the MLA and some other sources. Zotero’s appeal lies in the fact that it can draw the bibliographic information out of almost any source, with almost no effort on the user’s part. There have been a few hiccups for me in Zotero, especially in working with manuscript sources, and I will be interested to see how it performs as I get to know its inner-workings better. Best of all, basic use of Zotero is free. Although my institution subscribes to Refworks, I may well want to teach my students in my course on writing research papers with Zotero next time around.
Am I the last one to catch on to this? Do you organize your citations digitally or are you doing them by hand?