APA but without auto-sorting of in-text citations: easy CSL fix

For better or worse, APA is one of the most widely used citation styles in the cognitive sciences. One aspect of it that always bugs me is that it prescribes alphabetical sorting of in-text citations. I’m not talking about the bibliography; of course that should be alphabetical. I’m talking about the order of names when you cite multiple sources in one citation statement, as in “(Harris 1952; Chomsky 1957)” — or, as APA would have it, “(Chomsky 1957; Harris 1952)”.

My own strong preference is to have the order determined by priority and relevance. For instance, if I were writing about transformations in early generative syntax, I might want to cite both Chomsky and Harris, but I feel it would be useful to cite them in chronological order. Of course if I wanted to highlight Chomsky’s original contributions I could also do sth. like “(Chomsky 1957; and see Harris 1952 for a precursor)” — but the point is, in neither case would I want the ordering to be determined by a meaningless style prescription. The order of in-text citations is meaningful.

Now, if you’re using Zotero like me, you can already manually drag citations in any order you want. But still the APA default will hit you every now and then. Fortunately, this is really easy to fix in the CSL style, so I’m using a version of APA in which this is fixed. You can use my file, which is based on APA 7, currently the latest version.

I’m posting this for my future self as much as for others, so let me just note the utterly trivial single change you need to make in CSL terms. All you need to do is find the <citation> block and remove the <sort> statement inside it. That’s it. You can do this on your own system or in the online CSL code editor; or if you are more comfortable with the Visual Editor, you can also do it there. Save your adjusted style under a custom name to use it in Zotero.

New personal site

Almost 13 years ago, in 2007, this blog started as a sub-site on my personal web page. It soon took over most of my online presence and I moved it to its own domain. Now that I blog much less regularly, and have moved institutions, it’s useful again to have a personal academic web page. So I made one: markdingemanse.net.

This is also fitting because I have, over the past decade, developed a line of research on social interaction that doesn’t really fit what I’ve mostly blogged about on The Ideophone (which is topics around iconicity, ideophones, perception, and the senses). I will probably always keep working on ideophones, and I may well keep blogging here on various topics; but it was high time to have a web presence separate from this that more fully represents my scholarship and science communication work.

I used to have a really useful page at the MPI for Psycholinguistics, but an institutional move to Radboud University and a site redesign make the publication list there a little harder to navigate than it used to be. The neat thing is that Zotero (with ZotPress) makes it really easy to display full publication lists on my new site, even organised by topic:

Give it a gander, a glimpse or a glance — markdingemanse.net!

John Benjamins collective volumes linguistics CSL style

Linguists will know John Benjamins as one of the nicer academic publishing houses, not quite so terrible as Elsevier or other profiteering behemoths, and one with really good typography to boot. Iconicity afficionados will probably know the Iconicity in Language and Literature series published by Benjamins. One of my first articles on ideophones and iconicity appeared in this series and though since then much of my work has appeared in journals, I’ve just written a contribution for another volume in the series (this one edited by Kimi Akita and Prashant Pardeshi). I’ll share that paper on another occasion; here I just want to share a CSL style I created to make my life easier. If you’re just after the style, download it here (and see instructions for use here). If you want some background, feel free to keep reading.

Continue reading

Slides for a hands-on Zotero workshop

One of the key tasks scientists need to master is how to manage bibliographic information: collecting relevant literature, building a digital library, and handling citations and bibliographies during writing.

This tutorial introduces Zotero (www.zotero.org), an easy to use reference management tool made by scholars for scholars. The tutorial covers the basics of using Zotero for collecting, organizing, citing and sharing research. Zotero automates the tasks of managing bibliographic data, storing and renaming PDFs, and formatting references. It also integrates with widely used text processors, and can synchronize your library across devices. There is no more need to search through disorganized file folders full of inscrutably named PDF files, to copy and paste references across documents, or to manually deal with pointless differences in citation styles. Ultimately, the point of using a reference manager is to free more time for real research.

Note: these are slides made for a hands-on workshop. They may not work well outside the context of a live Zotero demonstration. I share them because they may still contain some useful information.

Who will write a lightweight duplicate detection plugin for Zotero?

Duplicate detection is one of the things any serious reference manager should offer. Zotero users have been clamouring for it since the early days. There are basically two ways to implement it: as a preflight check, warning the user when they are about to add a potential duplicate; and as an after the fact scan, which enables users to weed duplicate items from their library.

The most recent version of Zotero takes the second route: a posthoc duplicate detection mechanism. Though definitely better than nothing, and with an elegant merging solution, the interface is still far from perfect and yields a lot of false positives, making it somewhat difficult to use. Besides, it is slow, because it tries to compare everything with everything, which amounts to a huge amount of operations even in moderately sized libraries. Although it is good to have at least something, what seems to me have been overlooked is that prevention is better than cure, and that a quick check before adding new items to the library would help users a lot.  Continue reading

Zotero for Chrome and Safari

Here’s a quick tip for Zotero users who like to do their browsing in Chrome or Safari: you can install “Zotero Connectors” that will make Zotero recognize references in Chrome and Safari just like in Firefox. The Zotero developers are working on a standalone version, but these connectors can already talk to your Zotero library in Firefox. So if you, say, find yourself going to Chrome for its speed and nice interface, you can simply connect it with Zotero and use Firefox to host your local Zotero library until Zotero Standalone comes along. Continue reading

Unified Style Sheet for Linguistics Journals

Not all linguists may be aware of this, but since 2007 there has been a Unified Style Sheet for publications in our field, developed by the editors of a number of linguistic journals, including Language. (Oddly enough, just which journals besides Language joined in the effort remains unclear.) There is not much centralized information available about this style, but we have the 2007 specifications (PDF) and a page endorsing the style at the official LSA website.

As Stephen Anderson writes on the Linguist List,

Use of this style is encouraged, and if it is widely adopted, that could considerably facilitate the preparation of manuscripts. In support of that, it would be useful to have software support for it in popular document preparation systems.

I’m happy to report that Zotero now supports the unified style through the powerful open format CSL. If you have Zotero, you can simply install the style right away. Zotero of course already supported lots of other citation styles, including the widely used APA and MLA as well as styles for specific journals like Language (install) and the Journal of Pragmatics (install).

I haven’t been able to find a definitive list of the journals that have adapted the Unified Style Sheet for Linguistics, but some examples of journals using and/or endorsing it are Language itself, Semantics & Pragmatics, and the Journal of English Linguistics. Also, the LDLT conference series at SOAS, London is using it in its proceedings. Does anyone know of more journals?

Zotero 1.5 is here: synchronization and tons of other features

It’s here. Zotero 1.5 beta. The new version comes with built-in synchronization, exports to more than 1100 citation styles, and supports browsing your library online (see below). Zotero is now better than EndNote on all fronts. Here’s a quick overview of the most important features:

  • Synchronization. Automatically keep your library in sync across different PCs. If you have access to WebDAV storage, synching can also include your attachments.
  • Automatic backup. A copy of your library is stored safely on the synchronization server.
  • More than 1100 CSL citation styles. The style repository has grown immensely due to community efforts. Zotero styles are built on the powerful open source Citation Style Language (CSL), an XML dialect.
  • Support for EndNote styles. Thousands of EndNote .ens styles can now be used for citation formatting. These styles are available to licensed users of EndNote.
  • Rich text notes. Formatting can now be applied to notes with a WYSIWYG editor.
  • Automatic detection of PDF metadata. Another much requested feature. Not yet bulletproof because it depends on the information available in your PDF and the repository used to look it up, but a great step forward.
  • Shared collections. Easily share and build collections with colleagues.

All of this built on open source technologies and standards, which means that your data is not locked up in proprietary software at the mercy of profit driven companies.

New website features


Browse your Zotero library online [click for fullsize]

Meanwhile, the Zotero website has seen a major revamping, the most important new feature being the ability to browse your library online. Other features are more geared towards social networking activities: users now can have an online Zotero profile, can follow other Zotero users, and can build an online CV.

If you’re still stuck on EndNote, check out making the switch to Zotero, or see my review and comparison from last year. Questions? There are lots of helpful and friendly people hanging out in the Zotero forums. You can also post them below.

12 must know Zotero tips and techniques

Zotero is getting better and better. In a while, version 1.5 will bring synchronization, online backup of your library, +1100 CSL citation styles, and PDF metadata extraction (for the daring, a sync preview version is available). But even in its current incarnation Zotero is easily one of the best bibliographic managers out there. Here are twelve tips and tricks that help you to get the most out of it.

  1. Drag files from the web right into your library
    Got a reference in your library, but no PDF? Or saved an item from a repository which doesn’t provide a fulltext version? Do a quick search for the title on Google Scholar — it is good at finding PDFs on author’s webpages. If you find one, just drag the link from the page onto the reference in your library. Zotero stores and attaches the PDF for you.
  2. Enter a series of items by duplicating a template
    Adding a series of related references to your library? Start with one item for which you fill in the fields that are the same for all items (e.g. editors, book title, year, publisher, place) and duplicate it (Right-click > Duplicate item). Then fill in the particularities.
  3. Quick Copy a citation using Ctrl+Shift+C or drag and drop
    Sending a PDF to a colleague, or mentioning a reference somewhere? Quickly copy the citation by selecting the reference and pressing Ctrl+Shift+C (Cmd-Shift-C on the Mac), or simply drag it from Zotero onto any edit window (for example a new email). The default output style can be specified under Preferences > Export; the shortcut key can be customized under Shortcut keys.
  4. Have Zotero index your PDFs
    Zotero can index your PDF attachments and make them fully searchable, turning your library from a mere linked catalogue into a Google Books of sorts. The option is turned off by default because it relies on an external open source program (pdf2txt) which is not distributed with Zotero. However, Zotero can automatically install it and enable fulltext indexing: simply go to Preferences > Search and click on the ‘Check for installer’ button. For more info see pdf fulltext indexing in the Zotero documentation.
  5. Start quicksearch with ” to trigger advanced search
    By default, Zotero starts searching when you put the first few characters in the Search box. In a large library with fulltext indexing enabled, this can be tiresome (you wanted to look for “statistical methods”, but Zotero locks down searching for “st”). To avoid this, start your search with ” (double quote) to have Zotero wait until you finish typing and hit enter.
  6. Press Ctrl to find out in which collections an item is
    Looking at an item in your library and wondering whether you already categorized it? Press Control and Zotero will highlight the collections in which it is contained.
  7. Relocate your Zotero folder to a more sensible place
    The default place for the Zotero database and attachments in right in your Firefox profile, which isn’t the easiest to locate whichever OS you are on. Go to Preferences > Advanced to customize the storage location. You can place it in a folder that is included in your regular backup schedule or put it on a portable drive so that your library always travels with you (tip: if you work a lot on shared computers, combine it with Firefox Portable, which you can even use without administrator rights).
  8. Keep track of recent additions using a saved search
    Often you add new items without worrying about tagging or putting them in collections. Click Advanced search, select “Dated Added” > “is in the last” > X “days/months” and fill in the desired period; then save the search. This gives you a dynamically updated overview of your latest additions, so that you can go back to them and do the categorization and tagging work when it suits you.
  9. Tag multiple items at once
    Want to tag multiple items at once? Select them, make sure the tag selector is visible in the left pane, and drag them onto the tag you want to use. The tag will be applied to all items.
  10. Tag incomplete items to find them back and fix them later
    Sometimes you know an item has incomplete metadata (e.g. missing page numbers or publisher), but you don’t have the time to fix it right away. Make it a habit to tag such items (“needs metadata”) when you see them. Now you can find them and fix them whenever you have some time to kill.
  11. Use a separate folder for files to be ingested
    Someone gives you a bunch of PDFs to read; or you download a paper somewhere without having the metadata handy. Make it a habit to save such files in a subfolder /new/ in your Zotero folder. Then once in a while go through that folder. Do a quick search for the title on your favourite repository, grab the metadata, and then drag the PDF from your filemanager onto the reference in Zotero. Much better than having those loose PDFs scattered all over your hard drive (or in your mailbox!) — and it helps you keep track of your reading history too.
  12. Display a timeline to visualize your bibliography
    Not a feature you’ll use everyday, but a neat one nonetheless: Zotero can display your library, or portions of it, on a timeline. Select a group of references, a tag, or a collection and click ‘Create timeline’ (in the Gear menu). This gives you an overview of the items in time. Now you have to ask yourself: is the recency bias due to your reading habits or is it really true that most of the research was done in the last twenty years? (Probably a bit of both.)

Questions or suggestions? Leave a comment.