22 January 2009

Reverse bibliography

Something that would be useful: if I could flip through the bibliography of a book and see if it cites papers I recognize, and the bibliography indicated where in the book that paper was cited. That way I could tell where the book uses work that I'm already familiar with. (If I recall correctly, Graham, Knuth, and Patashnik do such a thing in their book Concrete Mathematics -- each entry in their bibliography indicates the numbers of those pages on which the cited work is referred to.)

This would be more useful for books than papers, because:
1. books are longer;
2. I'm more likely to be reading a book in dead-tree form. I usually read papers on-screen (since most of the papers I read are downloaded, and I don't print them out because I don't like drowning in paper), and most of the time the text is searchable.

7 comments:

ENBrown said...

For books or journal articles created with the LaTeX system, the backref part of the hyperref package will put links from the bibliography back to where it was cited in the text. Of course its not helpful for already published articles or books, but for your own work it can be a real timesaver -- especially on a large text such as a multi-chapter thesis with a combined bibliography.

See: http://www.ctan.org/tex-archive/macros/latex/contrib/hyperref/

Michael Lugo said...

I figured LaTeX could do this but didn't know how; thanks for the pointer!

Calculus Dave said...

I have also thought similar thoughts about this. Although, I would like to find a way to get a list of papers and books who reference a single article.

Just doing casual research in non-math subjects I'll find something interesting written 50 years ago and want to see what new research might be related and want to find more modern papers that reference the one I found.

Dan S. said...

Concrete Mathematics does a lot of unusual but good things that I wish other authors would pick up on.

Dave Richeson said...

I've done this using Google Books. It works especially well if the references look like [Ri] or [43] since they don't return many false-positives. You can use Google to do a full-text search in many books old and new. I wrote a somewhat related blog post a while back (http://divisbyzero.wordpress.com/2008/11/05/google-books-replaces-the-index/).

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