For most researchers, just keeping up with the scientific literature proves taxing. Actually organizing it in a useful way--to create a bibliography, for example--is even harder. That job can virtually handle itself, however, if a scientist uses bibliographic software.

Casual discussions about bibliographic software spawn a range of replies from scientists. Molecular biologist Ted Able of the University of Pennsylvania says, "Yes, I do use bibliographic software. It is absolutely a necessity!" But another counters, "What is bibliographic software?"

In general, this software simply does what many researchers once did with piles of index cards: It builds a database of references and helps arrange them when needed. Each reference can be entered manually, but to some scientists, including zoologist W. Mitchell Masters at Ohio State University, that sounds entirely too tedious. "I don't use bibliographic software, though I probably should," he says. "To transfer all my references into such a...

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