And ye shall know them by their citations

I’m playing around to see how easy it would be to convert my Access bibliographic database for published sources into Zotero. It looks like it will be relatively easy, despite the fact that I have a lot of records in Access – a formal count gives 35,448 individual titles, although there are probably a few dozen duplicates. While Zotero has certain advantages to my existing setup, it also lacks a few features as well (e.g. adding lots of custom fields). So I wondered whether losing those features would matter. My first thought: “Well, at least I have most of the sources on EMEMH already in, so it’s not like I’ll have to constantly add new sources.” Or will I? As I quickly realized, one of the advantages with Access is that I can run a real quick query to do a count of how many records I have from each year (publication date). This includes every type of work: journal articles, book chapters, books, edited books, even a few dissertations. Then I can graph it and get the following:

Number of titles in my bibliographic database, by year

Number of titles in my bibliographic database, by year

Turns out that there have been quite a few works from the 20th century. Perhaps not surprisingly, their number has increased from the 1980s on. Disconcertingly, their number has dropped pretty significantly in the past few years, although there might be methodological explanations for this, and we can always blame the economy and the decline of academic publishing. For a closeup view of the ‘collapse’:

Houston, we have a problem?

Houston, we have a problem?

Other Comments and Caveats:

  • This includes the entirety of my bib database, which includes some non-military works, but very few works on 19th and 20th century history (as he stifles a yawn). Since I am obsessively focused on EMEMH and have entered almost all of these by hand, I don’t have citations for a whole range of ‘classic’ (or otherwise) works on early modern European history, unless they directly relate to military matters.
  • My bib database includes very few works on Napoleonic warfare as well, the inclusion of which would obviously inflate the 19C & 20C count.
  • For edited collections, I included a record for each book, and then separate records for any chapters that were of interest to me. So depending on whether your level of analysis is the book or article/chapter, the count will vary slightly.
  • There are an extremely large number of pre-1800 works (22,002) because I mass imported a whole load of titles from a library with individual catalog records from EEBO from the second half of the 17C, which include many books on non-military subjects.
  • My bib database includes, IMHO, a pretty full accounting of all the English and French language works on EMEMH (certainly for subjects covering the period from c. 1670 to 1715, as well as late-20C scholarship on all early modern periods) – I’m a bit of a citation collector you might say. Not quite as much for works written in the other European languages, although I do have a fair number of German and Dutch works saved in my Google Books library as well downloaded files saved in various folders (from the KB’s Knuttel Pamflets for example). One of the reasons to switch to Zotero, to speed up entry (even as it slows down entry and recall in other ways).

Anybody know if Zotero can do this kind of querying? I know they have a timeline feature, but I haven’t been impressed with what I’ve seen thus far.

But more importantly, what’s the shape of your bibliography?

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One response to “And ye shall know them by their citations”

  1. adam3smith says :

    Zotero itself doesn’t have a lot of built in database analysis features. There is a powerful app for Zotero database analysis and visualization: http://chrisjr.github.com/papermachines/examples.html but it’s focused on textual analysis – it gives you in many ways much more power than you currently have, because it also accesses the full text of attachments, but it’s less flexible than a generic database application.
    Obviously you could also just analize the Zotero sqlite with any good database software.

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