Referencing Software Decision: 9 Critical Questions - Custom Scholars

Referencing Software Decision: 9 Critical Questions

Referencing software. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Referencing software supports writers, editors, and researchers in their responsibility to provide accurate citations. These platforms support researchers and writers in performing three basic research steps: searching, storing, and writing.

A good referencing software helps researchers find relevant literature, add chosen citations to a reference library, store papers and their bibliographic metadata in a cloud-based storage database for later retrieval.

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This is in addition to being able to directly insert citations and references in a chosen citation style when creating manuscripts and reference lists. Use these platforms for one-time writing projects or as a secure repository for long-term projects.

Factors Affecting your Decision on a Referencing Software

The most robust referencing software allow direct importing from bibliographic databases through direct access from the reference manager and/or bookmarkers that import content from the web browser. Choosing a referencing software

Alternatively, import references from other platforms with the help of import tools. The citations can then be used to generate citation lists and bibliographies

The library needs to be searchable and have the ability to index and label references. A top-notch referencing software should also offer tools for organizing the references into folders and subfolders.

You may also want to include full-text papers in PDF format that you can annotate and search; the tool should then be able to extract metadata from the PDF to create a citation.

You should be able to share references via the internet and organize each reference library into workgroups. This allows all members to use the same reference database. Sync your entire library including notes, lists, annotations, and highlights across all of your devices and operating systems.

The most sophisticated referencing software offer cloud storage and tools for exporting citations and references into word processing software such as Word and Google Docs simply by selecting relevant items from the citation library.

Users should be able to select a citation style from a readily accessible tool that contains styles for a wide array of journals and scholarly publishers. A key feature for a referencing software is the ability to save customized styles and formats for projects that fall outside the purview of standard journal publishers.

Questions to Ask When Choosing Referencing Software

Question 1: Are you working online or offline?

If you are working offline, you might be required to pay for a license unlike in most online versions where you can get away with paying absolutely nothing. Online software works best when a dependable internet connection is available, which happens mostly in cities, while offline software is more suited to disruption-prone areas.

Another major factor that can affect the choice of software is cost. Cloud-based referencing software is often cheaper than the offline versions. There is also the fact that with offline versions, you can work from anywhere and keep your paper going whenever you have a moment without ever needing an internet connection.

Question 2: Can you afford to pay for referencing software?

Can you afford a paid referencing software? Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@jpvalery?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Jp Valery</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/cash?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

Can you afford a paid referencing software? Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Some referencing software is paid for right off the gate. Paid software offers the advantage of security above all things. If a company is charging for their referencing software, you best believe they are going to pay for security features above and beyond their free counterparts.

Then there is referencing software that is both free and paid. Like Mendeley, for example. You are able to use certain features like basic reference management but then you will require to pay for additional features like more storage or editing of styles. Then there is free referencing software like Zotero which is mostly free.

Although, it can be argued that there is nothing like free referencing software. The provider of the free software also has employees who must have pay, rent to be paid etc. Imagine you have entered all critical information about your paper like a dissertation or a thesis.

At some point in the process, you would like to have exported the material. You will be asked to pay for it. Alternatively, there will be ads and pop-ups that make it impossible to work on your paper.

Question 3: Is the referencing software compatible with your OS?

Compatibility with the operating system ensures that your needs will be met. It means that the referencing software will be able to run searches on your browser without struggling or causing issues. It means that you will be able to install it in your devices.

Essentially, compatibility with OS is about your user experience and functionality. It is almost impossible for all referencing software to be compatible with all OS but most are compatible with the common ones. For example, Mendeley works on both Windows and Mac.

Although, in the case of Zotero, it is only compatible with OS versions after Windows 7. This is common but should not be a problem because some of the older version Oss are not usable anyway.

Question 4: Is the referencing software compatible with your word processor?

Your word processor is the software into which you enter your writing and from which you can print documents. Examples of word processors include everything from notepad to Microsoft word and even Apple works. Different OSs have different word processors. You may only know about Microsoft word but that is specific to the windows operating system.

Your referencing software should be compatible with your word processor. Usually, if it is compatible with your OS, that will extend to the word processor. Some referencing software may be compatible with one word processor but not others within the same OS. For example, the online version of Mendeley is compatible with Mac OS but not with Pages which is a Mac OS word processor.

Question 5: Do you want to share your sources?

 Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

In some cases, you might be writing a paper with your fellow students or colleagues. In this case, you would need to share all the resources so that everyone can do their part when it is convenient for them as opposed to having to meet every time to work on it. In this case, the most important factor to consider is which referencing software they are using.

You might also consider if you should get a different one just for this particular collaboration. Anyone working on the paper should be able to insert references and citations into the paper from the library. Therefore, you might want to look into Mendeley and EndNote which seem to have pretty good deals as far as sharing goes.

Question 6: Which database will you use to search for sources?

Look out for direct export options from bibliographic databases; can the package import .ris, .bib, or text files? Does the reference manager allow ‘online searching’ (i.e. searching bibliographic databases from within the package itself)? You need to be careful not to pay for a referencing software that does not support the database you would like to use. Read the reviews and feature information offered on different websites.

Question 7: Which styles will you use often?

Your academic department may require you use a particular style, and some journals use their own ‘in-house’ style. The biggest advantage of using referencing software is that you will always get the updated versions of different styles. This is unlike in word where the referencing style is not updated but rather remains as is.

As you update your software, which is common with all software, it will update your bank of styles to their latest versions as well. For example, Mendeley and Zotero both have the latest version of OSCOLA. You should ensure to check if your preferred referencing style is on the software. It would be useless to get a referencing software that has the styles used at your institution. Although, the next question might address this.

Question 8: Would you like to edit your styles?

All packages allow you to create your own style, or adapt an existing style. This is due to the fact that some styles may differ slightly in terms of formatting and design from the institutional guidelines. This feature allows you to edit the style to match the instructions given by the institution.

In EndNote there is a built-in style editor. To edit citation styles in Mendeley and Zotero it is helpful to have some knowledge of citation style language (CSL), and styles must be edited in a CSL editor.

The same is true for a situation where you need to edit the data fields to add, delete or modify a detail.

Question 9: How easy is it to use?

Like all software, referencing software vary in terms of functionality and user experience. They are not developed by the same companies after all.

Therefore, you need to check the online reviews for which is easier to use. For example, Mendeley is easier to use and offer a better user experience than EndNote. This does not mean that one is inferior, it just means that they have different strengths. You should also note that some referencing software might be easy to use with one OS but not with another.

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