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COinS Help You Build Citations

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Dear readers, I came very close to abusing your trust by writing a pun into the title of this post. Thankfully I paid attention in my journalism 101 class, because the use of COinS is nothing to pun about. I'll tell you why.

Microformats 101
(Actually an 050 class is a more apt analogy for my explanation. If you really want to learn about COinS go to ocoins.info. And if you want to learn more about microformats visit microformats.org or check out this book.)

COinS stands for ContextObject in Span. A "span" in this sense is part of the HTML code that makes up a Web page. COinS uses span in a rather unusual way to provide additional information about books, articles, documents and more. Sort of like a hidden description of something.

And in this case COinS is hiding a lot of information, including:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Publisher info

and a much more. But why does that matter when you can clearly see that information on the Web page? It matters because this hidden information makes it possible for one software tool, like Zotero, to take advantage of things that another software tool, like a Web browser, has to offer. It matters in other ways too, but let's focus on the most common use.

WorldCat.org and COinS

Using a citation tool like Zotero (there are others but I'm trying to keep this short), you can get citations from any Web page that uses COinS.

Looking at a page in WorldCat.org, like the Microformats book above, you'll find that Zotero can pull a citation out of the page. And if you search WorldCat, you can pull a citation from the list of results. If you add that book to a WorldCat list and add a bunch more books to the list, you can pull citations for all of the items on the list. Admittedly, you can only cite ten items at a time whether you are on a search result page or a list page. You have to page forward to get the next ten items.

If you have a big list, you can use the Citation View on that list to get more than ten items. We saw a Zotero user complain about the ten item limit on Twitter so we added COinS to the Citation View of lists. Just click the Citations View tab and you can see all of the items on your list in the chosen citation format. Now open up Zotero, click the folder in the address bar, and you can import the whole list up to 250 items. Easy peasy.

If you're using WorldCat lists for citations, please let us know how you are using them and the other tools you use beside Zotero.

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