Sunday, September 13, 2015

How to Choose Your References

I am working on a paper with a co-author. Last revision, he took out section X that was referenced by section Y. I thought Y needed to reference X, so I put it back in. But this meant getting all the works cited in section X back in the bibliography. So I scanned it for references, and to my happy surprise found three: Gracia, Graham, and Greenwald. This meant that the three references I needed would all occur together in the earlier version of the bibliography, and so could be copied and pasted as one unit!

Lesson learned: for each section of your paper, carefully plan your references to that the authors' last names all fall in the same narrow section of the alphabet. E.g., if you have already referenced Trotsky in the section on communism, you'll just have to find someone other than Marx for a definition of class conflict.

Advanced work: In fact, going even further would probably be a good idea: Arrange all references alphabetically throughout the paper. In section 1.1, you can reference, for example, Aquinas, Aristotle, and Augustine. Section 1.2 can contain Bede, Boethius, and Bruno. Section 1.3 might include Caldwell, Collingwood, and Croce. And so on.


  1. Or just use LaTeX + BibTeX, which take care of cross-references, citations, and bibliography formatting automatically.

    1. I've been using Zotero + Word, which allows me to have a reference database organized by topic, to grab references effortlessly from web sites, and to drag them into Word. Not a bad combo. But I don't know your combo, so I have no idea if it is as good.


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