Citations "R" Fun

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Remember typing a paper on a typewriter and trying to fit a footnote at the bottom of the page? Or typing your bibliography and realizing the references were out of order? Obviously, we've come a long way.

There are many useful web-based tools that can help you create and manage citations. There are some very good sites that give detailed guidance on creating bibliographies and in-text citations in a variety of styles. My favorite is Research and Documentation Online by Diana Hacker, created by Bedford St. Martin's. This site has probably more information than you ever wanted about citations, but it's all presented in a student-friendly way. The site even includes sample papers in a variety of styles.

Students who only need to include a few citations may not need to explore the details on the Hacker site, and may be happy with a quick guide like the ones created by Library Learning Services for APA and MLA styles. Another site students love is Knight Cite, created by a student at Calvin College. Students tend to dislike the details of creating citations and making sure every period is in place. Knight Cite will generate the citations for them in several citation styles, provided they input the proper information.

There are also some new social-bookmarking style sites that allow the user to quickly capture bibliographic data from online journal articles, databases, and book sites like Amazon and store them online (mentioned recently in an article by Tina Hertel in the April 2008 PaLA Bulletin). Like delicious and other social bookmarking sites, these programs, such as Connotea and CiteULike, allow users to share their libraries and see what other users have collected. These sites don't actually create bibliographies; you can export your citations to a citation management  program such as Endnote to create your reference list.

For more information about full-blown web-based bibliographic management programs, see my posts on Zotero and Refworks.

Does all this mean the end of print-based citation manuals? It certainly means they'll get less usage. Citation management programs are wonderful, but they're only as good as the data entered into them. Students should be encouraged to check their citations, but they can probably do that using one of the online style guides mentioned above, rather than dragging out the print manual.

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About Me

      I am a reference and instruction librarian at Penn State University Libraries in Library Learning Services and Education and Behavioral Sciences.       

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