Library Research Skills Tutorial About the tutorial
Referencing & Bibliography


On this page, you will find a revision of some of the topics covered so far. This will be applied to a practical consideration of how you could use bibliographic software to aid in noting your research and printing reference lists and in-text citations.

Entering data

Two advantages of bibliographic software are that it prompts you to make a full record of each reference when you first enter the information; and that, by automatically formatting your references according to your required style, it helps to ensure consistency in your references and bibliographies.

However, the software is limited to formatting text only according to the order in which you have entered it into each field. It is also unlikely that it will be able to change lower-case letters to upper-case, and vice versa. Therefore you need to be aware of the requirements of your reference system and make sure that you adhere to this from the start.

To sum up:


  • Be consistent in your use of capitals and punctuation within fields
  • Enter author names in the same format
  • Use punctuation that appears between fields (this will be done by the software)
  • Use a carriage return when entering data (except if this is required to differentiate between two discrete pieces of information in the same field)
  • Use any special characters which your software may use to identify the ends of fields, or information within a field
When using records downloaded from another database, you should remember to make sure that the use of capitals, punctuation, author names etc are consistent with the other records in your database. Remember also that online databases will contain a small number of mistakes. For your printed reference list, you must check any references downloaded from a database against the original source.

Updating your database

It is advisable to update your database regularly, this will help make sure that your references are accurate and complete.

If you have a laptop then you may be able to take this with you to the places where you are conducting your research. Otherwise you will have to decide how best to record your references for later inclusion in your database. You could, for example, print off some blank templates used by your database, or email this information to yourself.

Backing-up your database

As with any important file that you create during your research, you must keep at least one back-up copy. It is good practice to keep two, held in different locations. If you have personal space on a university server that you can save your files to, then you could keep a copy there.

Some programmes will have a menu option to save a copy. You will also be able to save the references from your database in a text-only format (this will be as a tagged or a delimted file). A text-only copy can be useful as it occupies less space on a disk or hard-drive and can be used with other software, such as Excel. However, if you are using characters not found on a standard UK keyboard (eg accented letters or letters not in the modern English alphabet) then you will need to check that these are still recorded in your text-only file.

Getting further help

As you build up your database and start to use it in writing up your research you will probably have questions about how to perform certain tasks. You might also want to find out about other uses for your software.

The manual and help files that come with your software should be able to help answer most of your questions. Your IT department may also be able to advise you. In addition some programmes have associated discussion lists which can be used to answer operational questions. These can also be a useful location for sharing conversion files for online databases. Details for some discussion lists can be found on the 'further information' page.

And finally

This is the end of the section on software for bibliography and referencing, thank-you for working through it. You may wish to return to this section later as you come to select and use your bibliographic software.

The next page provides links which will give you some details about the different types of software available, where you can obtain them from and related help pages and discussion lists for particular software.

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