Keeping track of sources is essential for writers, particularly when the subject is within a highly regulated industry such as pharmaceuticals.
Pharmaceutical copywriters not only have to understand complex information, but they also have the added challenge of supporting every claim. Keeping track of references, and then formatting them, plus annotating is extremely time consuming. Best case scenario is reference tracking interrupts your writing flow. However, losing a reference, or putting the wrong reference in the wrong place can cost you your job. Luckily, there are some great tools for organizing and formatting medical references that will help save your sanity under tight deadlines.

Instant AMA-style referencing and gathering

RefMe is a free extension you can install in Chrome that gathers your references, lets you annotate references, and add notes. So you can organize your sources and format them in one step. When you’re done you can export your list to Word or Open Office, and re-order them to match your manuscript.

If all you need is to quickly format a reference, check citation generator developed by Mick Schroeder, A pharmacy graduate from Penn turned software designer, Schroeder has developed some awesome online tools for us beleaguered pharmaceutical and medical writers. Citation Generator helps you input from a variety of references–including Pubmed, DOI, ISBN, urls– and automatically formats them to AMA style.

Reference Management Software can speed up the referencing process 

Reference Managers (RMs) functions include:

  • Importing citations from bibliographic databases and websites
  • Gathering metadata from PDF files
  • Organizing citations within the RM database
  • Annotating citations
  • Sharing of the RM database or portions thereof with colleagues
  • Allowing data interchange with other RM products through standard metadata formats (e.g., RIS, BibTeX)
  • Producing formatted citations in a variety of styles
  • Working with word processing software to facilitate in-text citation

Which Reference Management Software is best? 

CiteULike, RefWorks, Mendeley, and Zotero are well known reference management tools within the scientific community. In their comparison of four products, Ithaca College librarians Ron Gilmour and Laura Cobus-Kuo found that RefWorks was overall the most robust of these tools.

But don’t expect to get everything with one tool. According to the authors, Not every reference management tool offers all of these features. Neither RefWorks nor CiteULike, can extract data from PDF files. Generally, online-only tools, such as CiteULike, tend to have poorer integration with word processing software than tools that employ a desktop client.

For those of you who want to dig deeper into comparisons of reference managers, check out these links:

“Citation management software: Features and Futures” (2011)
Overview of citation management software from MIT

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