Fun with databases and RefWorks; a possible BAWS tangent

There was a conversation a few months back on a mailing list– I think Tech-Rhet– where some current PhD student was asking about the best software options for compiling a bibliography. Frankly, I didn’t pay much attention to it, mainly because I didn’t have time but also because it had not even occurred to me that I would need/want to use such a beast, even as I was embarking on my BAWS project. I guess I’m like that old dude who runs the shoe repair business on the corner and doesn’t understand why he’d need a computer to keep track of his receipts since the filing cabinet has been working great for that for 50 years already.

Well, I decided to change my ways a bit and I’ve started to experiment with some options.

I do like zotero a lot and I have it installed on the browser on my desktop computer, but I wanted something that I could access from any computer. I have a CiteULike account and I might be using it more in the future, but it seems to me that it wants you to manually write up most bibliographic information, which is less convenient. EndNote is apparently the “industry standard,” but I don’t do “industry standard” windoze computing, and besides, it’s expensive.

At EMU, we have this service called RefWorks, so that’s what I’m going to try for the time-being. It is not the most user-friendly thing in the world, but it seems to be able to import bibliographic data from other databases reasonably well. For example, I can look something up in the MLA database via the EMU library and click a button that more or less exports that info into my RefWorks database. Within my database itself, I can add notes, alter the citation information so that it matches up different style guides, etc. It’s sweet. Well, sorta sweet. The import features are far from perfect, and there is always the danger that, with the seemingly never-ending budget cuts at EMU so we can prop up the football team and thus improve our image around the country (no kidding, this is more or less the Board of Regents’ strategy right now, apparently), the library will be forced to discontinue its subscription to RefWorks. But for the time-being, it’s nice.

While working with this and also WorldCat (an example of how the import features into RefWorks from databases is far from perfect, and also an example of a database that I should have used before but hadn’t), I came across a surprising number of pieces of fiction involving blogs, most of it adolescent novels. I’m not entirely sure what to do with this and it would be an enormous tangent, but what does it say about the potential of blogging as a writerly space when it is fodder for fiction? I don’t know, maybe nothing at all; maybe a lot of people who blog a lot fancy themselves to have the sort of power they lend to their characters? maybe a lot of readers of these books are hoping for the same kind of power? I guess I might have to read one of these things to see…,

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