Do I Really Need a Reference Management System?
Not an entirely rhetorical question.
So, I have been catching up as much as possible on the threads in this forum after joining this week. My impression is that most of the contributors are in academia and publish scholarly work a lot. I am coming at this Zettelkasten concept from a different angle, I think ... more of a short-story writer, short-article journalist, science blogger.
Nonetheless, my workflow should be basically the same as the workflows that I have been reading about in this forum. Not sure.
In any case my workflow could be expressed as: select a story angle (non-fiction or fiction), do the necessary research, capture ideas that could contribute to the work, summarize in my own words how these contribute (the zettels), build the narrative (planned or seat of the pants) using a "cards on the wall" approach, by way of, for example, Scrivener ...
then, iterate if the story angle diverges along a more interesting track.
When I bring citations into my notes, I suspect it will be for me to remember where to find the source, page, and context for any particular idea that manifested along the workflow. I do think that would be useful, as any story or article may be derived or motivated from multiple sources, pages, paragraphs, sentences. But the final product--the published story--would not necessarily need the citations or bibliography. For a science piece, however, they might.
The Zettelkasten itself would, after reaching some kind of a "critical mass," likely become a source for finding new story angles ... at least that's what I hope.
Assuming that my Zettelkasten implementation really would benefit from a reference management system, I spent the day comparing dozens that are available, some free, some contingently free, and other not so free.
My requirements for any reference | bibliography management system are as follows:
- must be able to work on both Windows and Mac
- must be able to sync between both platforms
- must be able to support import and export BibTex formats
- must support plain text
There were two out-of-the-box solutions that met these requirements and that were both contingently free ... as long as you didn't get over 600--800 or so references.
Otherwise, I would lean toward a roll-your-own web-server solution that are actually free to download and use in perpituity. Of course, because you need a web server, this kind of solution is not entirely free, though reasonable. And, the size of your reference library would not be contingently constrained.
To be sure, I do like the minimalism often expressed by @sfast. And I appreciate the kindly talking me down from the Folders|Project ledge by @ctietze. And I want to be able to best utilize the bibliography hooks that @Rene expertly installed in sublime-zk and sublimeless-zk (sweet!) to keep track of what I am reading in my research, which will include both articles and books. But, is a robust reference management system necessary for my expressed situation? Trial and error?
If you have any more thoughts on this to help keep the question less rhetorical ...
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