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Author: Ryan Johnson
Title: Bibliography Applications: Reference Manager 8.5
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
April 1999

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Source: Bibliography Applications: Reference Manager 8.5
Ryan Johnson

vol. 2, no. 1, April 1999
Article Type: Software Review
PDF: Download full PDF [11kb ]

Reference Manager 8.5

Reference Manager 8.5, Research Information Systems, (, $395.95

Reference Manager 8 is a bibliographic database program that is designed to allow one to organize references to works in thirty different formats including journals, books, patents, slides, web sites, and dissertations. Once created, these references can be searched by author, title, publication, date, type of material, subject terms, or any other inputted information. The ability to search large database for bibliographic references can simplify the never-ending task of keeping track of sources in an extended research project or just keeping up with the literature. It can also simplify the creation of notes and a bibliography in a particular style because it will format citation information automatically according to each of the major style manuals. It also has the style specifications for over 100 journals built into it. This version of the program has also added the citation form for electronic sources and Internet communication to each of the styles included and fields in the database for the URL.

This software runs on Windows 95/NT, and there are versions for Macintosh and Windows 3.1. The minimum hardware requirements are an 80386DX or better processor, 8 MB of RAM minimum (16 MB recommended), and a hard disk with at least 10 MB of free space. It is also set up to run in conjunction with a word processor and is compatible with either Microsoft Word 7 or 97 or Corel WordPerfect Version 7 or 8. This is a simple program to load and to operate. It loads from a series of floppy disks, rather than from a CD, but it loads quickly. The online help is well organized and easily accessible, as is the manual. While some of the more complex functions do require some instruction the basic functions of the software are readily apparent and any user with experience with other database software should be able to start without much confusion. There is also a very good tutorial with a sample database for a new user to practice on in order to get a feel for the software before beginning to enter his or her own citations into a database.

Because this type of software is not new, an option by option examination of it seems not be called for. Rather, a discussion of its strengths and weaknesses for historians in particular would be more relevant. Reference Manager is not directly designed for scholars of the humanities or social sciences. It was designed for use in the life sciences. The real strengths of this software are the built in capacities to match citations to specific journals and to download references directly from databases and automatically format these in a database. The problem for historians is that the journals and databases, which are supported, are almost all in the fields of health and bioscience. Similarly, the glossary of periodical terms that is used to in citation creation is focused on health and medicine. It does, however, give a historian the ability to maintain a working database, or series of databases with complete bibliographic information in an easily searchable format. These databases are simple to construct and easy to edit. Because Reference Manager designed to be compatible with a word processor, creating bibliographies can be as easy as marking the desired citations and then Reference Manager will automatically organize them in a bibliography in the assigned format. There is another option that will automatically scan a document for designated notations and will create the appropriate citations. As far as I could tell, this would only work with parenthetical citations and not foot or endnotes making it of less utility to historians than to other social scientists.

For a computer savvy historian, Reference Manager could be an excellent tool, but most of its capabilities are designed for medical and biological research. This focus could be difficult to overcome for a less technologically sophisticated researcher. In addition, the program lacks a format for manuscript materials, which could be a serious drawback for a historian. Despite the drawbacks inherent in its life science focus, this is a very good database system that can be very useful tool for managing a large bibliographic set. A historian could make very efficient use of this software, it would just be a little more difficult than if he or she was a medical researcher.

On a scale from 1 to 5, I would give Reference Manager a 4.

Ryan Johnson, St. John's University