Parsing scholarly references in plain text

Recently i had the need to convert scholarly references in a plain text document to references that can be managed in my reference manager. Naturally i hoped that my trusted EndNote X7 would assist me with this cumbersome task but i soon found out that this is not the case. After some minutes looking through the help function and support forums i contacted the support desk who confirmed that EndNote currently does not provide this functionality. The support team was kind enough to point me to an alternative option. I’ve found additional options searching for a solution but eventually noticed that Zotero has a nice list in their Knowledgebase.

I have bibliographies in Microsoft Word documents, PDFs, and other text files. Can I import them into my Zotero collection?

[…] Alternatively, you can use third party tools to extract bibliographic data from formatted bibliographies:

  1. cb2Bib is a tool that will take formatted references copied to the clipboard and attempt to parse the individual bibliography fields into the BibTeX format, which you can then import into Zotero. See the related forum threads for discussion of the difficulty of the problem as well as some success stories with cb2Bib.
  2. text2bib Web-based service by the economics department at the University of Toronto similar to cb2bib. Converts references to BibTeX, which Zotero can import. Users report good results.
  3. FreeCite is an open-source tool hosted by Brown University that converts formatted bibliographies to an XML representation of ContextObjects. Detected citations can be imported to Zotero by simply clicking the capture icon in the address bar.
  4. Simple Text Query, a tool by CrossRef, tries to find the Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) of the journal articles, books or chapters cited in a bibliography. The work flow here would be to paste the bibliography in the text box on this website, check out the resulting DOIs to see if the references have been correctly identified and then import these references from the publisher’s websites into Zotero.
  5. Wizfolio, an online reference management service. It works similar to cb2Bib and Simple Text Query tool from CrossRef, in that it tries to parse the bibliographic fields and searches for Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs). The workflow would be: Via Wizfolio’s Import from Clipboard, it is possible to copy citations from an article, create a categorised reference list (looked up e.g. in Pubmed), export the list and import this list into Zotero. It’s not perfect (e.g.: worked for 1/3 of the references on a set of citations without titles). However, it combines multi-citation import with database lookup of the bibliographic fields. The free signup has a limit of 50 citations per month. When using the clipboard function in Wizfolio, the references have to be split by a blank line. See also this related forum thread.
  6. AnyStyle is an open-source tool and online bibliography parser; it allows you to train the parser with your bibliography for improved parse results.

I personally like AnyStyle best but your success with the conversion is likely dependent on your area of research. It is a shame that EndNote does not provide this functionality; i noticed that it had been looked at about 2 years ago but the project seems now abandoned. Anyway, in the end i decided to quickly go through the references manually and copy them in due to the fairly accurate hit rate and the convenient ‘Cite’ link that allows for direct import to EndNote.