Anyone that’s ever written a document that requires the citation of primary sources(i.e., pretty much anything non-fiction) knows that appropriately citing articles and putting together a references section is the bane of the process.
One might easily spend a full day simply poring over a manuscript checking for formatting errors in the parenthetical citations, and doing the same for the references. Advisors, professors, and committee members alike seem to revel in raking students over the coals when it comes to this part of reviewing a paper. It’s by far and away the easiest target; one misplaced period or incorrectly indented citation warrants a full carpet-bombing of the whole document, or so it seems.
My mentor has corroborated what I have thought for quite some time, which is that in the Real World, we have people with job titles like “Type Setter”, and “Copy Editor”, etc., that are paid to do those things when articles are submitted for publication. Stunning, right? I don’t mean to undermine the importance of knowing how to correctly format a document. Quite the opposite, really, since I get a little obsessive/compulsive when it comes to this very task. But Wait! I’ve got science to do! Do I really want to spend all my precious time doting on these banalities? No, not really.
EndNote is a feature-rich application whose primary function is to enable formatting of citations and references as you work, on-the-fly. The developers called this “Cite While You Write” formatting, which is as apt a title as they could have come up with. In short, the idea is that you have your references in a particular data file, known as the “Library”, which are formatted according to your discipline’s style of choice. When you hit a point in your document where an article should be cited, you simply click the “Insert Citation” button in the Word toolbar (if you’re using Microsoft Word; consult the manual for use with other word processors), and presto! The citation is inserted. If it’s the first occurrence of the citation, a reference is also created at the end of the document. That’s essentially it. The core of EndNote does all the heavy lifting for you, once you’ve entered the references into your library.
Like the Papers discussion, going over all of EndNote’s features would be well beyond what I hope to accomplish in this post. If you want to see everything it can do, go visit them at Thompson Reuters software, and download a free 30 day trial. Peruse the manual for a complete picture of all the great things you can do, and adapt as you see fit to hone your own workflow.
I had mentioned previously that EndNote could take up the slack for you Windows and Linux users that cannot take advantage of Papers. EndNote does, by and large, accomplish much of what Papers does: it allows you to organize references by category (you simply create a new Library for each new project or topic), and attach documents to those references. The critical part missing here is the built-in text editor that allows you to read full screen and take notes on the article, which are then permanently associated with that article. The work around for this would be to use NotePad or some other bare-bones text editor to write while you’re reading, and save that in a folder or folder structure in a way that makes sense to you (i.e., a file with the first author’s last name as its title, or something to that effect). It’s an inelegant solution compared to the integrated beauty that Papers offers, but it provides the same end result: get your notes or text written in a way that is sensible at worst, and something very similar to your final product at best.
Well, that’s it for this post. Digest it. Think about it. Maybe try to apply these ideas for yourself, and see what works and what doesn’t. In the next post, which hopefully will be mercifully short, I’ll talk about integrating Papers and EndNote. Getting these two apps to play nice is simple and efficient. Better still, their integration will remove yet another level of grunt work for you. Hopefully by now, you’re able to start seeing how I got some of this to work, and maybe, just maybe, you’ve started to think about the switch to a paperless research life. Really, everyone, it’s just so glorious.