Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Using Bookmarking Services for Organizing Citations

One of the things I love about speaking to classes is that the questions that come up always spark great ideas and conversations. I spoke to a Library Science class last week about what it's like to be a distance librarian in a university library. We had some very good questions in the discussion, but it's continued via email. Today, I got a question about organizing resources for papers, projects, and classes.

We do subscribe to a service called Refworks. Refworks is a bibliographic manager, like Endnote and Procite, but it's web-based. You can import citations from many of our databases (including book records from our catalog or WorldCat) and Refworks will even format them, in any of a huge number of formats, when it comes to do your paper. It's a great service.

However, it's a little clumsy for anything besides the materials in the databases. For databases without standardized formats, for obscure print resources, and for open web resources, you must manually enter records. I only use it for materials for which I know I want formatted citations. Most of my collections are open web sites for presentations, subject guides, blogging, collection development, and professional development. Entering all of that into Refworks would just take too much time.

You can also use a bookmarking service. These are services that allow you save URL's, usually with some sort of categorization, in a web-accessible format. Like a Bookmarks or Favorites list that's accessible from anywhere. There is generally a link that you save that allows you to add a page you are viewing to your account. So the basic procedure would go:
  1. Start your research.
  2. When you find an interesting resource, bookmark it to the service, adding appropriate keyword tags or adding it to the appropriate folders for later retrieval.
  3. Later, review the materials you've found, and select the ones you're going to use for your paper/project. (At this point, you could add the selected items to Refworks to format for your Reference list.)
  4. Next time you do a paper, review the relevant categories and add a new tag, for the new paper, to the ones that might be useful.
I use for most of my resource organization now. Any web address can be added, even resources within the databases--just make sure that you use the permanent URL as described in my linking guide. So if I had a collection of articles from Academic Search Premier, for instance, I would find the link on the article record page, click my Add to bookmarklet, and replace the automatic URL with the one on the record page. That one will include the proxy information so if I want to access the information from off campus, I'll get prompted for my ID and password.

If the material was something that I thought might disappear quickly, for instance a news article from a local paper, I might use SPURL or FURL, which both cache private copies for later use. (SPURL interfaces with quite well.) Both SPURL and FURL also allow for private links, which aren't available in your publicly accessible account. (Private is a relative term, don't cache sensitive information in a service like this.) The caching may not work as well with password protected materials like the databases--however, the databases are much more stable than the open web, so the link should last (though you might want to annotate the URL with the citation information, just in case).

All of these services allow some sort of categorization. allows keyword tagging. FURL uses folders. SPURL uses both. They are all searchable. You can tag or file links into categories for a particular paper, project, or class. If you use a service that uses tags or multiple folders, be sure to categorize your links by subject, not just project. You may want to use the same resource later on for a different project, and the subject terms will allow you to find it more easily.

One of the reasons I like is that you can coordinate tagging between members of a study or project group, and then you can view all the resources tagged by the whole group. (You have to decide on a unique tag that no one else is likely to use. I recommend something having to do with the course number--and that you do a tag search to be sure that some other class hasn't used it already.) If you use RSS, you can monitor what everyone is finding through your RSS reader. Or you could use a service like RSSfwd to get the new resources by email. FURL and SPURL also have RSS feeds, but the group work is harder to manage.

Another reason to like is the large number of add-on services available. A newish one is Pasta, which allows you to paste a small amount of text into a new site and add it to your account. So you can save the reference to something you can't find online. (Just be aware that Pasta is completely open, so don't post incriminating emails or anything. You could add a Pasta note that you've got something related in your email, however.)

There are dozens of bookmarking services out there, most of which will do the job of organizing your class research efforts. Which service you use is mostly a matter of what you find useful to your own style and preferences. There are a few things to think about:
  • Do you want to keep copies of the actual page? Then be sure the service you choose has a caching component.
  • Do you care if the whole world sees everything you save? Some services offer a privacy option and a few are completely private.
  • Do you want to share with a group? Some services make it easier to coordinate than others.
  • Do you want to be able to add anotations to your links? Many services allow some notation, but the length varies. Many are quite short.
If you want to try it, but aren't sure what service to try, I'd start with It only takes a quick registration, and an email address, to start an account. It is also sort of the defacto standard, so many services offer "convert from" options, which makes it easier to switch from if you decide you like something else better. There's a long list of social bookmarking services at this Wikipedia entry. This list contains some non-social services, i.e. ones that don't create publicly accessible pages where other people can view your links.

Newer services are generally more sophisticated, so if you want to try something more advanced, you might try one of the newest services, Blinklist. Blinklist really emphasizes the social aspects of discovery and collaboration, so it might work for team projects. I haven't used it yet, having too much invested in to want to switch to something brand new right now. I am keeping an eye on it though. There's an enthusiatic review at Blended Edu.

If you're interested in my ridiculously large collection, it can be found at (I like the Cloud View better, personally). My public FURL list is at FURL has folders for two classes, including EDTC590 (University of Phoenix). I started using after I finished my classes, but I have tagged references for conferences and projects.

Update (10/28/05): just saw David Weinberger's post about future plans for's good stuff coming up!


Blogger Mind Valley said...

Hi there, I really enjoyed reading your blog and was hoping to get your thoughts and ideas on something that we are now starting to work on at BlinkList. To make BlinkList a better social learning and social knowledge tool, we are creating a new concept called "BlinkList Spaces." Think of this as your own space, where only the people in your group can add resources to. Sure, today you can pick a specific tag but we think having a "space" could be even better. Would love to hear your ideas and continue the discussion with you if you are interested. Since we are in the early stages of this, it would be great to hear your thougths so we can make sure that it meeds you needs.

10:41 PM, October 26, 2005  
Anonymous paolo said...

are you missing
I love citeulike but connotea is free software (software that gives you freedom, for example to modify it)

8:55 AM, May 12, 2006  

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