University of Exeter


PSY6002 Workshops in Psychology/PSY6031 Workshops in Economic Psychology
Basic Research Skills: Bibliographic aids

Methods for storing your own bibliographic material

Simple solutions | Commercial solutions | dbCindex

The problem

Once you have collected a set of abstracts and references, you need to store them in some way.  But it isn't very helpful just to keep them as a series of downloaded text files or emailed messages.  Specifically, you want to be able to: But although you do want quite a number of facilities, you don't want to recreate PsycLit or the ISI databases: you want something that is simple and portable, and contains the information that you are likely to need.  This session describes a number of different strategies for solving this problem.  Not all the strategies will make all the above facilities available, and each of them will be better on some points than others.  They also differ in cost - the cost to the user in terms of setting up and maintaining a system, and the cost of buying the software it requires.  It's important to take the right decision about creating a reference data base - if you continue in a research career, the database you create now may well be with you to the end of your working life.

This document outlines the principles of some of the available solutions. More details about procedures are available in a separate document.

Simple solutions

You can use standard software to maintain a basic database of reference material, in at least 4 ways.  All these solutions are essentially free, in that they make use of software you will already have access to.  None of them does everything we identified about as desirable, but they may come close enough for your purposes.

Commercial solutions

The alternative is to use specialised software solutions, specifically designed to store bibliographic information and make it available in the form you need.  A large number are available, and the University of Bristol has published a valuable comparison of the main ones.  Among the best known are: All these systems seem likely to offer an excellent service, at a price, and in particular all can be integrated smoothly with the bibliographic source databases such as PsycLit and the ISI databases.  Papyrus is currently relatively cheap, and IT services are recommending it, but students have found it difficult to work with in the past.  The other two are more expensive.  Neither the university nor the School has a site licence for any of them at present.  All three offer free demonstration downloads, so you can try them out and see how they compare if you are considering buying one for yourself (or from a research project grant).  Members of the School have expertise with Papyrus and probably with the other systems as well.

A local compromise: dbCindex

In the absence of a site licence to one of the commercial systems, the School offers its members, visitors and students the chance to use a locally produced program called dbCindex, which offers rather more facilities than the simple solutions listed above, but unlike the commercial solutions is available without charge. It also offers the unique feature of allowing you to build a semantic network of keywords to index your references.  It is prototype software, and written by an amateur, so you use it at your own risk, and it does not have anything like the flexibility of the commercial systems.  It is available for PCs running Windows 95/98 only.  Essentially it allows you to: If you want to use dbCindex on a computer on the university campus on which it is not yet installed, you will need to do the following: To use dbCindex on your home machine, you can either copy the files in the dbCindex folder to floppy disks (3 disks will be needed), or download the program from the web.
One advantage of dbCindex is that it keeps the biblographic information in a standard database file, which could be imported into Access (and probably into any of the commercial sources) if you subsequently decided to change your strategy; and it does its subject indexing through standard relational database techniques, again allowing a route for subsequent upgrades.  A second advantage is that because it has been written locally, it may be possible for new facilities to be introduced if local experience suggests they are needed - though no promises are being made about this.  Obviously I would welcome a report of any bugs you find: there are almost certain to be some, and there are certainly some limitations that may be unexpected.

Although dbCindex is supplied free, it remains copyright.  Anyone working in the department is welcome to use it, and to take it with them when they leave.  But you are asked not to copy it to third parties, and you are not allowed to repackage or sell it.

Stephen Lea

University of Exeter
School of Psychology
Washington Singer Laboratories
Exeter EX4 4QG
United Kingdom
Tel +44 1392 264626
Fax +44 1392 264623

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Document revised 2nd August 1999