An introduction to citation tools

1. Introduction - how do we cite?

This tutorial is not about citation but a word on it is nevertheless required. Historians follow many different styles but it is generally ‘footnote’ or ‘endnote’ based. In either case the citations take the following forms:

  • A bibliography that lists works or sources consulted in the course of preparation of a piece of research
  • A means of indicating when, in a specific portion of text, argument depends upon a particular work, be it primary or secondary (i.e. footnotes or endnotes)

There is an enormous amount of possible variety in the character of these two elements but, at least in modern scholarship, they will always both be present.

The purpose of these notes is to act as an apparatus to point the reader to further or explanatory information regarding a statement, quotation or argument in the text and as a means to cite the source of that information.

Building these citations into a piece of research can be time consuming and annoying but are vitally important to the scholarship of your work. As such various tools have been developed aimed at automating part of the process and as a means to organising and structuring files in a way that can be considered ‘standardised’. 

Reference managers or citation managers are software packages designed to easily save bibliographic references (including primary sources) into a searchable database and generate them as required into formatted footnotes/endnotes and bibliographies. Among other functions, they can normally import references from online catalogues, and integrate with word processors (such as Microsoft Word or Open Office) to facilitate the insertion of footnotes as you write.