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Improving Reference Citations

Creators: Tom Elliott Copyright © The Contributors. Sharing and remixing permitted under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (cc-by).
Last modified Dec 15, 2017 11:32 AM
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Pleiades cites a wide variety of resources, both online and in print. New documentation and tools are making existing references better and easing the process of creating new ones.

One of the biggest challenges faced by new contributors to Pleiades (it's true for seasoned veterans too) is the adding of references to external resources in a manner that is consistent, complete, and that conforms to the expectations of the Editorial College. In recent months, several steps have been taken to improve this situation, including the integration of the Zotero citation management system through a curated Pleiades Zotero Library and the revision of our Editorial Guidelines. Today I'm happy to announce and solicit feedback on some additional steps.

This morning we deployed updates to the "References" portion of the "Add/Edit" form used when making additions and changes to Pleiades resources. Previously, this form offered some guidance for the content of individual fields on the form, but that guidance was incomplete and increasingly out-of-date. Now, every reference-related field provides fuller, more accurate guidance and, where appropriate, links to other explanatory materials. Several of the text fields themselves have also been widened in order better to accommodate average-sized content. Some minor whitespace adjustments have also been made for the sake of readability.

Behind the scenes, we've been developing software to examine existing references for completeness and conformance to editorial expectations. This software, which we've dubbed "PleiadesRefBot" not only adjusts the contents of reference fields, but adds new information as necessary. In particular, since many references in Pleiades predate the move to Zotero, PleiadesRefBot uses the information in the reference to try to make a match with a corresponding Zotero record and then updates the reference in Pleiades accordingly. The bot also checks links to external references as a guard against link rot, and reports "not found" errors and other problems to the human supervising its operation. But please don't be surprised if you come across legacy citations in Pleiades for months to come. We are moving slowly with, and checking behind, the bot in order to prevent mistakes or loss of data. 

Meanwhile, the old Citation Guide, which was weighed down by a mass of deprecated examples, has been retired. The new Citation Guide is built in a modular format that lets the editors add examples for individual, frequently cited resources more easily. Software has also been written to help produce these entries, making use of the content in the Pleiades Zotero Library, the Classical Works Knowledge Base, the Perseus Catalog, and the heuristic rules employed by PleiadesRefBot. We hope that this provision will not only accelerate updates to the Citation Guide, but also help ensure consistency between the Guide and the actual references in Pleiades

Non-contributing users of Pleiades stand to gain greatly from these initiatives as well. As legacy references are upgraded and new ones vetted, the path to accessing a cited work will become shorter. A higher percentage of Pleiades references will be linked directly to their online targets, and references to works still available only in print will make better use of the WorldCat union catalog and other systems to help you find nearby copies.

Further enhancements are planned, including search-as-you-type functionality for citing works already in the Pleiades Zotero Library and clearer guidance for primary sources and their editions. In the interim, critiques and suggestions are welcome via the Pleiades Community Google Group or the Pleiades Gazetteer Issue Tracker on GitHub.