Using reference management software – garbage in, garbage out

Reference management software, such as Endnote or Mendeley, can make wrangling references for a thesis, journal article or research report much easier, but it doesn’t make the reference list perfect. If you make mistakes in data entry, your list will have errors in an example of garbage in, garbage out. Copying reference information from another published source doesn’t mean a reference list will be perfect either, if the original source has errors or missing information.

Common mistakes in data entry of references in software include:

  • entering corporate authors as individuals where the Australian Bureau of Statistics appears as Statistics, A.B. or World Health Organization appears as Organization, W.H. This is also a risk with government departments.
  • entering journal article titles, chapter titles or book titles in an inconsistent mix of lower case and initial capital letters
  • entering dates in a mix of Australian style (1 November 2017) or US style (November 1, 2017)
  • identifying a multi-part surname incorrectly
  • including asterisks or footnotes such as a or b as part of an author surname
  • omitting important information to help identify and find the reference such as publisher, location or volume number.

Many journals have templates available on their websites for authors to download to format references in their reference software according to the journal’s preferred style.

Always look at your software-generated reference list for a final common sense check and see my blog on How to check your own reference list.

For editing and writing inquiries, contact me at rhdaniels@bigpond.com

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