How to create and use a scientific bibliography

Posted on April 3, 2012

I am really surprised about how many people are entering all the references in their text manually. It has become common to me to observe how much time my colleagues waste on write any single reference in their text and in the bibliography, instead of doing in automatically with software. This article would show you how to create and organize your scientific papers library, and how to enter the references in your text via software. For this guide I will focus on Papers, a software that is exclusive for Mac, although there are Windows alternatives like EndNote or Sente, which I have read good reviews about.

Organizing and importing your papers in your hard drive

The first step is to get your papers in pdf, and organizing them in your hard drive. Some software has the option of “rescan” the folder you want, in order to look for new papers each time you move them into that folder. In Papers, unfortunately, that option is not included, but pressing ⌘+i you will see how a small screen opens asking you what do you want to import. What I usually have is a folder, or a group of them, where I download the papers I found on the Internet, so I can have them organized in different folders as I desire.

When the paper has been imported into your Papers library, the program will move you to the section “Recent import” where you will see your last import, showing at the right hand a column with all the info about that document (name, authors, publication name, publishing data, etc…). In most of new papers, that info will be filled directly by Papers, but sometimes, specially when the paper has been published before de ’90s, you will have to enter the data manually, double clicking on the fields you want to fill.



Inserting references in your text

Once you have organized your bibliography, it is time to use it. An amazing characteristic of Papers 2 it that it allows you to enter the references in the way you want in a very simply way. Firstly, ensure that the Manuscript function going to Preferences/Manuscripts, and turn it on. The shortcut to do it is Ctrl + Ctrl (you can change it easily on that screen, also).

Now that we are sure that Manuscripts is on, we press the shortcut Ctrl + Ctrl (or the one we chose) and we will see a small screen. Introducing a word in it, we make a search, and the program show the most relevant results for it. The more accurate the search, the better, so try to use the keywords or part of the paper title you want to add.

We need only to select the reference we want to insert. Once it is inserted into our document, we will see it written in a “Papers 2 mode”. Do not worry about that. If we want to see it right away in the desired format, we will open again the “Insert citation window”, pressing Ctrl+Ctrl, and select format manuscript. Since we have added references into our text, now we can see options like this, or we can change the citation format (In the capture is in a Nature form, but we can select other journal type from the list, and it will be applied to all the citation in our text).

With that, there is only one last thing to learn!

The Bibliography

Every paper finish with a list of all the references, and Papers 2 have an option to make a lovely one! Once we have at least one reference inserted in our manuscript (I don’t really agree with calling them manuscript since we write using computers) we can insert a bibliography, pressing again Ctrl+Ctrl and selecting the option Insert Bibliography.

The Bibliography will be inserted according to the style that we selected when the references were put into the manuscript. Simple and fast.

This tutorial to Papers 2 finishes here. I hope you find it useful. Any questions, feel free to ask in the comments. I will try to answer as soon as possible 🙂

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