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Referencing & Bibliography

Downloading records

Tagged and delimited records

Incorrect formatting in files is the most common cause for records failing to download into your database of references. This page will explain in more detail how bibliographic software indicates where records and fields begin and end, and how software recognises this information in files saved from other databases.

Tagged and delimited record files are text-only files that provide the following information:

  • Where the list of records begins.
  • Where each individual record begins and ends.
  • Where each individual field within a record begins and ends.

The file may contain more information such as what type of reference (eg book, journal article etc) each record represents.

Tagged records

Tagged records get their name because each field is given an indicator, or tag. For example, a tagged record may look like this:

AU: Martin Loney
TI: Rhodesia: White Racism and Imperial Response
PP: Ontario
PB: Penguin Books Canada
DT: 1975<This is followed by two carriage returns>

In this example:

  • Each record starts with 'Record#' followed by a number and a carriage return.
  • Each field begins with a tag composed of two letters, a colon and a space.
  • Each field ends with a carriage return.
  • Each record ends with two carriage returns.
Tagged files are commonly used by databases for exporting records in a format compatible with bibliographic software. This is because individual field headings are clearly marked. However, the receiving software will need to recognise the overall structure of each record, as well as each heading, in order to read the file properly.

Delimited files

In a delimited file, records are usually separated by a single carriage return. The ends of fields are marked by a character. Most usually, this is a comma or a tab. Using the example above, a record in a comma-delimited file might look as follows:

Martin Loney,Rhodesia: White Racism and Imperial Response,Ontario,Penguin Books Canada,1975<followed by a carriage return>

Delimited files are useful for transferring data to commonly-used programs, such as Excel, which may not recognise individual field headings.

It is important to make sure that the information that you type in to each field does not replicate the indicators used by the software. For example, if you had typed in "Penguin Books, Canada" for the publisher, this would be read as two fields in a comma-delimited file. If you use a carriage return when entering information this could cause the record to be read as two records, or not at all.

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