Students beginning graduate studies in social work are almost always surprised at the amount of reading such a course of study requires. This is where Citation Management Software for Social Workers students can help.
In addition to textbook readings, students are typically expected to read several hundreds of pages a week of academic journal articles, collections of case studies, practice-oriented handbooks, and theoretical publications.
Social work educators carefully select readings that are essential to building one’s social work knowledge base, and their value in guiding future practice and scholarship should not be under-estimated. However, keeping up with such a high volume of readings, and finding a way to systematically read, analyze, take notes, keep track of, and refer back to these texts is a challenge.
Thankfully, that challenge can be overcome through effective employment of citation management software! Those who have never heard of citation management software might not find the concept particularly exciting or enticing, but once familiar with its many capabilities, it is sure to be a refreshing way to revolutionize social work study habits.
What is Citation Management Software?
There are various software platforms for citation management with varying capabilities, but all seek to assist scholars in managing literary works of reference. What does this mean? Citation management, reference management, or personal bibliographic management software is software designed to record and utilize bibliographic citations.
These are computer applications or web-based systems of software designed to capture bibliographic information for what one is reading and categorize them in an internal database that users can interact with through a friendly interface with an incredible range of capabilities and tools.
Some of the most commonly used options for citation management software are Pro-Quest’s Refworks, Thomson-Reuter’s EndNote, and the open-source Zotero. Each has similar options and abilities, which will be covered generally, with a specific focus on Zotero – since it is free for download!
What Can Citation Management Software Do?
Citation management software allows you to follow an easy process to document and utilize course readings, through the following general capabilities:
- Record – the software will automatically detect the bibliographic information in your web browser and record it to its database, capturing author, year, title, publisher, etc, and categorizing the item appropriately as a journal article, book, etc. Many offer browser plug-ins allowing you to record this information with one-click. So the next time you are searching your library’s journal database and come across something you’d like to read, you’re just one click away from recording it, with all of its bibliographical information, into your citation management software’s database.
- Download/store – if you are on a page where a downloadable PDF of the article is available, the software will automatically download it and link the PDF to its reference within the software’s database. If the PDF is not available for online download, but you have a copy of it, you can manually link it to appropriate reference and the software will store it there for you to call up later.
- Take notes – Once an item is recorded and its PDF content is downloaded/stored, you can open that item directly from the software, and take notes within your software’s database while you read. This is a great tool for creating annotated bibliographies, as all of your notes are stored electronically with the item they are referencing.
- Categorize – the software allows you to categorize and sub-categorize items into an infinite number of “libraries” that can be based on a specific topic, course, author, etc.
- Sort and Search – Once recorded and stored in the software environment, users can sort items by date, author name, year of publication, etc, and search for specific terms. The search function will even search within your notes for easy reference!
- Export/Cite – When it comes time to write a paper referencing these sources you’ve cataloged, the software will automatically export citations for use in your word processing program. This can be done in a variety of formats (MLA, APA, etc), and you can elect to export an entire list or one item at a time. Microsoft Word even includes a toolbar add-on for several citation management software programs to seamlessly integrate the two.
If you are looking for a way to organize, categorize, and refer back to your scholarly readings, look no further. Citation management software will in all of those areas, and more! Citation management software is an excellent tool for the student or researcher, streamlining and simplifying the challenging process of keeping track of scholarly texts, and saving time on citing them in one’s own work.