Citation v8.2

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, December 2003, send e-mail
Published by: askSam Systems Inc. or go to the web site
Requires: Windows 95 or higher, Pentium PC or faster; for word processor integration WordPerfect 8 & 9 or 10, or Microsoft Word 97, 2000 or 2002
MSRP: $49 (upgrade from v8), $79 (student or upgrade from earlier version), $149 (academic), $229 (retail)

Citation is a powerful, easy-to-learn and easy-to-use database system designed to help with the fundamental tasks associated with research writing: organizing notes and documenting sources properly. The software is designed to provide academic and technical writers with a system for entering references as records in a database program, in predefined forms, rather than as formatted footnotes or full bibliographic cites prepared according to a style guide. Once the records have been created it's possible to generate citations for reference in any of over 1,000 predefined formats.

When I'm not wearing my Kickstartnews editorial hat, I'm buried deeply in one research project or another: investigative, political, socioeconomic - you name it - on behalf of clients from around the world. Digging for research - ferreting out accurate information fully supported by relevant facts - online, at different reference libraries, through interviews with authoritative sources, by reading & analysis of journals and other publications, is fascinating work. The biggest challenge though is keeping track of every source and reference as you build your research project, academic paper, technical manual, scientific paper and so on. The fact that you've got it all right has to be supported by sources: the names, the dates, the places, the documentation. Without those citations (literally, the sources for all the factual data not developed, invented or discovered directly by you) your efforts are just so much hearsay. Ever read a Bibliography? Probably. A bibliography consists of citations. Ever read Footnotes or Endnotes? Probably. Footnotes and endnotes contain either explanations, citations or both.

I've seen some really smart people over the years jump into difficult research, academic and technical projects. After days and sometimes weeks of work, they've suddenly sat bolt upright in their chairs, then screamed in anguish as they realized that most of what they had written to that point in time was not backed up by thorough notes containing citations. Then I watched them spend more hours (and days in some cases) poring through their footnotes and general notes for hints to the original sources. It's an ugly sight - painful too. So it's plainly sensible that over many generations - hundreds of years really - lots of methods have been developed (most of them extremely labor-intensive) to keep track of things. Enter the digital age, the Web, digital libraries, books and encyclopedias on CD & DVD, along with all the traditional information sources. Enter Citation.

So how does it work in actual use? After installation, Citation sits in your word processor's Tools menu. We use Microsoft Word for just about everything and Citation integrates perfectly. As you're conducting a project you'll encounter written passages, excerpts, web pages and other information that either capsulizes the source work's position on an issue, summarizes a contribution to a research area, or illustrates a critical concept you want to address in your paper - whatever. Click the Citation icon in the Word toolbar, click New on the Citation file menu, then enter the data in the note form. Link the note to the bibliographic record with the author's last name, the year the work was published, source or publication name, the page/paragraph, web site/page where the passage can be relocated. Include a few keywords that indicate the relationship of the excerpt to your research interests. You can enter your comments about the excerpt along with the excerpt itself. If it's the first entry in a new project, save it using a distinct file name. As you continue your work over days, weeks or months, continue entering new records into Citation. As your project nears completion, pick a spot for your bibliography then launch Citation and select "Bibliography from Datafile" in the Generate menu. You'll be presented with a drop list of bibliographic publishing styles - over a thousand - from which you can select one that matches your project. Citation then automatically produces a complete bibliography based on all your data input and dumps it onto new pages in Word at the end of the document.

So how else does it work? Well for one thing, you don't need a word processor to use it. Citation is a daily-use tool for supporting not just eventual bibliography, but also for general note taking, organization and key data storage, tracking and notes searching. Launch Citation, then enter relevant data as you encounter it. Working on multiple projects concurrently? Launch several instances of Citation each running a different database, then switch between them as needed. Citation helps narrow your focus without limiting the scope of any project. Handy indeed.

Data you enter into Citation notes becomes searchable via the keywords you include. That makes finding specific notes much easier, making review much less of a chore. As you begin the actual writing process, accessing notes for review is really easy, citations can be found and included with a few clicks and the publication style that's required can be matched exactly. Citation also lists all the keywords you've used and lets you find all the records in which you've used any particular keyword.

We started using Citation a few years ago mainly because the sheer volume of our research documentation had reached critical mass (terabytes of data). Our digital and paper filing systems had always been superb, but we were finding that the time needed to reference even our large database was excessive for individual research associates working on new projects bringing new data into the system. Installing and using Citation allowed new research to enter our master databases through individual input while still remaining easy to back up (no research data or documents of any kind are stored on local hard drives or laptops anyway). Individual researchers now always have instant access to relevant notes in a much smaller database without sacrificing concurrent access to the larger central database as needed. With automatic backups of local and server drives, data is always tracked and never lost.

Cons: Minor quibbles only. Formatting problem in the bibliography generator when line justification is set to Full - creates unnecessary spaces between words on any short line immediately preceding a URL. We had to manually delete the spaces or highlight the passage and set justification to Left which is not a problem in small bibliographies but a potential aggravation in large ones.

Pros: Can be used as a standalone research database tool or as a word processor plug-in, which means you can use Citation while data gathering, conducting research or interviewing. Indices that match the APA, MLA & Turabian numbering systems; Chicago, MHRA, Harvard Bluebook (17th edition) for law review articles, Vancouver style (ICMJE for medical journals), AMA, GSA, USGS, AIP, AAA, Cambridge UP, and about a thousand more. Footnote styles as well as full bibliographic styles are included. One-click note and file linking. If you need to prepare your paper with references in a different style, you can reformat the information by rerunning Citation. Preferences dialog provides selections for different research disciplines, Journal abbreviations, Publisher abbreviations and over a thousand bibliography styles. Citation remains an excellent research and writing tool and we really wouldn't be without it at our company. Highly recommended.

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