I am in the process of setting up some organization and goals for Web 2.0 projects involving faculty. A huge part of these projects is to find research on using Web 2.0 technologies in education. I want to be able to show my team members how they can collaboratively collect, share, and store these resources, but would like to use something besides delicious (even though that would not be a bad choice!). And by the way, if you are NOT using some sort of bibliographic software, you need to. Not only will it save you a ton of time (after you learn it of course), but it will serve you well in future papers, where you already have some of the references already stored in your libraries.
If you are unfamiliar with bibliographic software, just think of it as an interface between your writing platform (Microsoft Word, for instance) and your resources. The software serves as a database, holding and sorting your references, while also helping you insert in-text citations, which then will automatically create a reference list for you. I have used EndNote for years and like it (and our library now offers info on the new EndNoteWeb (a free, web-based version of the software. Check out the workshops the library is offering this week: http://albertsonslibrary.blogspot.com/2008/04/get-to-know-endnote.html
However, one of the drawbacks of EndNote and computer-based bibliographic software is they don’t include collaboration and sharing. You may ask, “Well, why would I want to share my resources with others?” Maybe the same reason you’d like to see what other experts in your field are finding! Sharing might be a good thing.
Enter Zotero a free, web-based bibliographic manager (it’s actually a Firefox plug-in), which offers all of the benefits of EndNote, plus a bit more. Zotero makes use of some sort of specialized code (I think it’s magic!) that AUTOMATICALLY RECOGNIZES publications, and with the click of your mouse (I kid you not), it will download and format that info for you in your Zotero library. Libraries are kept on your local computer, but never you worry, because you can download the portable Firefox browser on your flash drive and save all of your Zotero libraries, moving them effortlessly from one machine to another. Sound too good to be true? Watch the Zotero video and you’ll quickly see what I mean. (And, interestingly, I just found out a librarian wrote this program! That’s why it’s so good. :))
While Zotero at this point does not offer sharing or collaboration, their website indicates it is ON THE WAY. If you can wait until fall 2008, this feature should be available. And when that happens, I think we’ll have a lot of converts. What to do until then?
Since Zotero so effortlessly captures and formats publications found online, I would still use this powerful program, with the intention of sharing coming down the pipe. For the time being, if I want my Web 2.0 participants to share resources, then I think I’ll direct them to CiteULike, a very intuitive, handy, and fairly robust bibliographic manager and collaborative tool. Users can form groups and deposit their findings into one area. If you can’t easily import and format an online resource in CUL, you COULD import it into Zotero, export it as an RIS file and then import it into CUL. (This really isn’t as hard as it sounds.)
So, I’m still not settled on how I will do this. I think I’ll show the group their options and then ask for feedback. They can do whatever they want, even copy and paste a reference list into a wiki page, but the ultimate goal is to SAVE TIME, CREATE REUSABLE RESOURCES, SHARE RESOURCES, and GET FEEDBACK on these resources. (CUL allows reviews of resources.)
If you get anything out of this posting, start thinking of ways you can use bibliographic software in all of your scholarly writing. You will eventually build an excellent library of resources that can be used over and over again and will end up saving a lot of time, especially in automatic formatting of reference lists and in-text citations.