Citing research is about to get a whole lot easier.

After the storm - raindrops on roses The most laborious part of any research paper for me, and probably for many of you, is making sure that the references are formatted in the proper style. Is the title supposed to be in italics? Do I need a period or a comma here? It has always seemed like exactly the kind of thing that a computer should be able to do for me, and now with Mendeley it can. Mendeley uses a system for formatting references called the Citation Style Language (CSL), which is sort of like HTML, but for citations. With Mendeley, you simply tell your word processor what citation style you want (picking from a library of thousands of styles) and our word processor plugin handles the rest. However, not all is roses and pancakes. CSL styles are written by the worldwide community of scholars, and just like pages on Wikipedia, these styles can sometimes contain errors or need updating. Unfortunately, there has never been an easy way to edit citation styles so that everyone using the style can benefit like they do when someone updates a page on Wikipedia. We think it’s time for that to change, and so we’ve partnered with Columbia University, with funding from the Sloan Foundation, to develop a citation style editor that brings our substantial experience in creating a great user experience to the problem of creating and updating citation styles.

We’re currently collecting use cases to guide our development efforts, so we’d love to hear from as many people as possible about how you cite papers and what you need a tool to do. The official place for feedback and use cases is here.

10 thoughts on “Citing research is about to get a whole lot easier.

  1. I would like to save the journal abreviations so I could use them in the citation style. Thanks for all your efforts!

  2. David, it’s perhaps unfortunate, but LaTeX isn’t the standard in many fields, including most of life science, which is currently our largest demographic. An easy to use citation style processor is still a huge help to the majority of these people who must submit manuscripts as Word documents.

  3. To reconcile both of you, It would be great if your CSL style editor was able to export Bibtex styles files. These are really geeky to build, even with the so called “command line GUI”.

  4. Happy to hear about this news, can’t wait to see this citation style editor… I’m just wondering why this feature has been mentioned as “started” since 2008 in the feedback forum, only to learn the development will actually start only now… The transparency of the development through the feedback forum was something I really liked in Mendeley, so I’m a bit disappointed to see I can’t actually rely on it to know what is actually worked on in Mendeley…

  5. This is really great news. Personally, I am pretty happy with the existing styles but for many users such an editor will be awesome!

  6. Saying that CSL just reinvents bibtex misses the point in several ways.

    – Traditional bibtex is extremely limited. Once you go outside english-speaking (hard) science, you’re basically out of luck with bibtex. Try to do a proper bibliography for German humanities, for example, and you won’t go far with bibtex. CSL is, among other things, geared towards the much more complex styles used in the humanities.

    – While BibLaTeX overcomes many of bibtex’s traditional shortcomings it’s completely useless for anything outside the LaTeX word. I’m myself a heavy BibLaTeX user and I absolutely love it, but it doesn’t help me at all if I want to format a bibliography in a WYSIYG word processor (or anything non-LaTeX).

    CSL is more or less system-agonostic. It has already been implemented in various setups and for different word processors, and you could, at least theoretically, quite easily come up with a CSL processor for LaTeX. The other direction, though won’t work: BibLaTeX heavily relies on LaTeX, porting it to another system is almost impossible. In terms of fine-tuning (typographic and otherwise), BibLaTeX certainly has the edge over CSL, but it lacks its universality.

    While CSL won’t replace Bib(La)TeX anytime soon – even if there’s going to be a CSL processor for LaTeX – it will certainly help in unifying the world of bibliographic software.

  7. I (and every single psychologist, I guess) require an option to easily adjust what part of a citation is shown in the text. Example:
    >> For many years, research of Hintz & Kuntz (1970, 1980, 1990a, 1990b, 2010, Hintz, 2011, Kuntz, 2012) has shown that X and Y equals Z. In 2012, Kuntz et al. also proved that “when you add 1 liter of water to another, you get to 2 liters” (p. 77f).

    Even MS word has been able to customize the elements shown in the text since version 2007, so I wonder why Mendeley doesn’t have that feature yet – or have I just not found it yet?

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