Organizing Research, Digitally: Bibliographic Management Tools

How are we using technology to navigate the iterative, and often messy, process of academic research? One topic briefly discussed at last week’s Digital Humanities reading group dinner: bibliographic management software (also known as citation or reference management tools).


Photo: C. Hayes

Bibliographic management software, according to NYU Libraries, allows users to “import citations from databases, websites, and library catalogs, create bibliographies in most output styles, format citations for papers, manage, categorize, and organize citations, attach PDF’s, images, etc. to citations in [a] collection, and add notes to any citation(s).” In short, these tools help writers gather, store, organize, annotate, and later retrieve saved materials.

Today, a wide variety of bibliographic management software options are available. DiRT (The Digital Research Tools Wiki, which is now part of the Bamboo DiRT project – a great resource for digital tools, in general) provides a rather comprehensive list here. Ample literature comparing the tips, tricks, pros, and cons of these different options also exists. Four of the most commonly used bibliographic management tools are EndNoteMendeleyZotero, and Refworks. UC Berkeley Libraries offers this comparison, while MIT Libraries provides this table and advice, for choosing between these four widely used options.  Miriam Posner, coordinator and core faculty, Digital Humanities Program at UCLA also offers a short list of bibliographic management tools in this post about managing research assets.

While there are learning curves associated with using bibliographic management software, for many scholars these tools have proven useful and effective in the long run. The important task is determining which option will work best for you. Most bibliographic management software adopters agree that talking to colleagues who have used one or more of these tools is helpful. So is test-driving different options.  Many bibliographic management tools are free (including Mendeley and Zotero), and others offer free trials (EndNote). At USF, Refworks accounts are available for free through Gleeson Library. Questions? Contact the library:


Debates in the Digital Humanities: Lecture & Reception with Matthew Gold

Location/Date/Time: The Gleeson Library Rare Book Room, Gleeson 3rd Floor. Thursday February 7, 2013 11:40 lecture and 12:40 reception. Twitter #USFDH

The University of San Francisco will be hosting a lecture and reception with Matthew Gold, Editor of Debates in the Digital Humanities (U of Minnesota Press, 2012).

Matthew K. Gold, Assistant Professor of English at New York City College of Technology, discusses his newly edited work, Debates in the Digital Humanities This event is part of the University of San Francisco’s continuing College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Lecture Series and is co-sponsored by the Gleeson Library | Geschke Learning Resource Center at USF.MattGold

Gold is a faculty member in the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Doctoral Certificate Program at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he also serves as Advisor to the Provost for Master’s Programs and Digital Initiatives.  Matthew is also the Project Director of Looking for Whitman: The Poetry of Place in the Life and Work of Walt Whitman, an NEH-funded experiment in online multi-campus pedagogy, and Project Director of the CUNY Academic Commons, an open-source academic social network dedicated to building community across CUNY’s 23 campuses.

Debates in the Digital Humanities brings together leading figures in the field to explore its theories, methods, and practices and to clarify its multiple possibilities and tensions. Together, the essays—which will be published later as an ongoing, open-access website—suggest that the digital humanities is uniquely positioned to contribute to the revival of the humanities and academic life.

This event is free and open to the public.

Debates in the Digital Humanities – USF Reading Group Dinner

The DH reading group met for dinner at Jannah restaurant off campus (thanks Dean Camperi!) the evening of January 24, 2013. The folks around the table for the lively discussion included Tracy Seeley, Michael Rozendal, Peter Williamson, Ron Sundstom, Marjolein Oele, Colette Hayes, Shawn P. Calhoun, Xavier Gomez and Chris Brooks. debates_book_image_mini

The conversations were wide ranging and covered many issues related to DH as presented in Debates. While Debates provided a number of starting points to our conversations, the groups discussions about DH, pedagogy and instruction at USF were particularly interesting. While there were a number of themes that emerged from our conversations, a few in particular that stood out to me (Shawn) include:

  • The definitions of DH in Debates were at times difficult to pin down, at least as they relate to medium-sized liberal arts colleges like USF
  • The pedagogical opportunities and implications of DH appear to be an area that might benefit from additional attention
  • We are already ‘doing DH’ at USF (but the definitions of DH continue to confound…)

As the conversations wound down at the end of the evening, a few possible next steps were discussed. One thing that will hopefully happen is that this blog will become one of many places on campus where conversations regarding DH will continue to take shape. USF has an strong set of existing resources upon which all of our DH work can be built – but getting the word out about these resources needs to happen.  Also, this blog and the USF DH website should become a stepping off point for USF faculty, students and staff to learn more about practical DH strategies, tools and methods that can be integrated into both research and teaching.

Once again, thanks to Arts and Sciences dean Marcelo Camperi for hosting the event and a heart-felt thank you to all of the folks who made it out for dinner. Stay tuned!