Citations putting in authors' initials/names

Hello, I am quite enjoying using Zotero, so thanks for the application.

One thing I can't figure out, as it is not constant, and seems to happen across citation styles: I occasionally get the authors first initials (or first name, if the scrape had it that way) within the citation, which I don't want. I know that this can be removed within the citation editor plugin dialog, but is there a way to make sure this doesn't happen at all?

I am using Open Office 2.3. on an OpenSuse machine, with Zotero 1.0.6. I have tried this with American Sociological Association format, and now the developed AGU and Journal of Evolutionary Biology styles. Same thing (and I have turned to using these because it seems to me that the et al. rules for Harvard style 1 and Chicago author-date at some stage switched from 3 authors minimum to 4 authors--I need et al. to kick in when there are more than two authors, and could have sworn that in the past they did it this way, but my memory could be faulty).

Thanks for any advice on this!

One other c
  • The most likely issue is that you have multiple authors with the same last name, or that you are citing multiple works by the same author but the author's name appears differently in your database. In either of these cases many styles ask that authors with the same last name be disambiguated by adding their first name.

    Most of the time the issue is that the data you ingested from different sources does not refer to an author by the same name. For example if you had poems by W Shakespeare, W. Shakespeare, and William Shakespeare Zotero would have no way of knowing that those are actually the same person. This problem can be solved by deciding on one way to refer to the author and then editing your items to properly refer to that author.
  • Hi, thanks, I think that must be it. The one I am looking at now has multiple works--in one reference, the first name is used fully, in another, the initial.

    Will edit accordingly.

  • I personally think this is a problem. I have two articles with the same two authors, both with the same surname; 'Haber, Lyn' and 'Haber, Ralph Norman'. The articles cite thus: (L. Haber & R. N. Haber, 1998) and (R. N. Haber & L. Haber, 2000)

    Don't the citations only need enough info to uniquely identify them in the current reference list? Therefore neither of these citations would need initials as the dates are different. If the dates were the same, only the first name would need initials to uniquely identify the reference. If the order of the authors on the two articles were the same, then the dates get the 'a', 'b', etc. In none of these instances do they need the initials.

    Is this behaviour able to be turned off? This would save a lot of grief and editing for me. Currently, when any of the authors for an article appears more than once in the reference list their name will often appear with initials in the citation, even if they are second, third, fourth, etc, author and even if the initials are not needed to distinguish the reference. This requires me to to trawl through the database trying to find which one has different values in the first name field. This is happening a lot when I am sourcing from various databases.

    Is this a new behaviour? I don't recall this being such a problem previously.

  • I exactly have the same feeling than tonyc2001. This issue is all the more surprising that I created my own CSL style file, and the following line could be expected as turning off first name initial insertions in citation:
    <option name="disambiguate-add-givenname" value="false"/>

    But there is no effects... Would it be a bug to be fixed?


  • I also think this needs attention. I am writing a word document and Zotero is adding initials to resolve authors names, even when there is only one author with that name being referenced in the current document (but there are multiple authors with that name in my zotero library). Also, if you have different versions of the same author with and without full first names but same initials (e.g. Citizen, John Sam; Citizen, J. S.) zotero adds initials to resolve these. Please can we make the initials optional?

    That brings me to another question, is there any way to edit your author list other than go through every item manually? I have a lot of different versions for most authors because the different websites/translators often give a different result.
  • edited October 14, 2008
    This looks like a bug in Zotero. I observe that:
    1) For a citations where there is no period (.) after each initial on the Zotero "Info" tab , the initial is included in the citation in my Word document.
    (J R O'Connell & D E Weeks, 1995)
    2) If I add periods to the first author's initials in Zotero, and click the 'refresh zotero' button on the Word toolbar, the initial is omitted in the Word document citation.
    (O'Connell & D E Weeks, 1995)
    3) If the author has only one initial, it is omitted from the Word citation regardless of whether it is followed by a period.
    (Kruglyak, M J Daly, & E S Lander, 1995)
    4)The initials are always followed by an period in the bibliography in the Word document regardless of whether the period is stored in Zotero or not.

    Unfortunately when collecting citations across multiple websites some are stored with periods after the initials and some not. This inconsistent behaviour doesn't conform to the style selected. I hope it can be repaired.

    After checking all references in my document discovered that not all conform to the above. Furthermore sometimes the initials appear before the surname and sometimes after. For 3 out of about 70 references the only solution to get rid of the initials was to delete the initials from the Zotero database. Think I'll give Endnote a try out.
  • pwebs: What style are you using?
  • edited October 26, 2008
    Well, I've tried a few styles hoping that might fix things e.g. I tried "Chicago (author-date)". Since none of the default styles match the format I'm accustomed to, I've downloaded and now use "Harvard reference format 3". I still have to manually tweak the DB entries to get rid of initials.
  • I'd also like this to be easier to resolve. I love Zotero, but I've a very large database of references, collected from all over, and going through to change all the first names isn't really feasible. All I'd like to do is turn off first names completely in citations. I've tried editing <option name="disambiguate-add-givenname" value="false"/>, but it has no effect.
  • apparently you need to remove option name="disambiguate-add-givenname"

    it doesn't help to set it to false. However, the default seems to be "false" so removing it works
  • I think this is a bona-fide bug, and here's why:

    The problem is with the line
    option name="disambiguate-add-givenname"

    most csl files list this as the last of the disambiguate options. Therefore, it should never execute this command unless the previous commands don't suffice to disambiguate. This is described in the XBib SVN repository

    "## defines parameters relating to disambiguation, followed in the order given
    ## below until a citation is disambiguated"

    I think it's worth just deleting this option in the CSL file as asplundj suggested since the previous disambiguate options will always disambiguate (unless of course your journal always requires you to list the given names of authors with the same last name; in which case the only option I see is that you manually make all the authors in your database typed exactly the same).
  • I've been struggling with this problem for a few weeks now. In all (author-date) citation styles, some of my citations will have first names or initials added to them:

    (John W. Moreau and Sharp 2004) [incorrect]

    when it should be:

    (Moreau and Sharp 2004) [correct]

    I think that this is a real bug in Zotero (more on that later). It's related to having multiple authors with the same last name in the database. First, here is a summary of quick fixes. Just go down the list until the problem goes away:

    1. Change author entries that have no space or a period between the first and middle initials. Ex: "Moreau, JW" and "Moreau, J.W." will cause problems.

    2. Change author entries to add a period after all initials. Ex: changing "Moreau, J W" to "Moreau, J. W." may fix the conflict.

    3. Change author entries for the same author but with different formats. Ex: "Moreau, J. W." and "Moreau, John W." may cause a conflict.

    4. Add middle initials to author entries. Zotero can't seem to differentiate authors with both a first and middle name from authors with only a first name. Unfortunately, this can't always be fixed. Ex: "Moreau, John W." and "Moreau, Myriam" will cause a conflict.

    5. Remove the line <option name="disambiguate-add-givenname" value="false"/> from the CSL style file. Actually, this step should remove the problem altogether, but not everybody knows how to edit CSL files. Here's the real bug in Zotero. It appears that this line doesn't do what it's supposed to do, but deleting it does what it should do in the first place. Also, it appears that the line <option name="disambiguate-add-names" value="false"/> doesn't work either.

    I was able to fix most of my citation issues by the first three steps, and unfortunately it takes a lot of time to edit each entry in the database, especially surnames like Williams and Smith. But in the end there were a few stragglers and I still had to edit the CSL file.
  • I'm struggeling with it myself. I tried all suggestions but failed. In the end I will have to edit it by hand. Very anoying... Needs a FIX!
  • Tony2001,

    If you're still following this thread ... I've just recently built the disambiguation machinery for a new CSL process meant for use in Zotero. One of the issues it will address is disambiguation by givennames, and I think your concerns will be addressed. Basically, you'll only get expanded/added first names where it makes a difference, and when it makes a difference, only one set of initials/one givenname will be added. It will also unwind any author names added in the add-names phase of disambiguation, if the cite can be distinguished without them. If the names are hopelessly the same, no initials/givennames will be added, since none of them helped.

    There are software tests that illustrates this behaviour here, if you'd like to take a look:

    If you have comments on the tests, or requests for additional tuning of this behaviour, please post them. A CSL formatter is a complicated piece of machinery and it will be awhile before this is deployed, but your concerns are being worked on in various quarters.

    Frank Bennett
  • Minor remark: for the tests, I think the value of initialize-with should be ". " instead of ".".
  • Um ... if I read the code of the existing CSL processor code correctly, it doesn't make any difference in current Zotero. After the initialize-with initials are formed up, the processor has this, at lines 690-691 of csl.js:

    if(firstName[firstName.length-1] == " ") {
    firstName = firstName.substr(0, firstName.length-1);

    What that's doing is looking for a space at the end of the first name (or initial) variable, and chopping it off. A space is added again later, when the full name is formed up. This reading is supported by the existing styles, which sometimes use ".", sometimes ". ", but don't seem to produce extra spaces in generated names.

    Whether this is the right thing to do or should be changed is an open question, but it might not hurt anything to retain this behaviour.
  • edited April 15, 2009
    Except when you don't want separating spaces.
  • edited April 15, 2009
    That's true. Hmm. The space has two possible meanings doesn't it: the space between the initials and the surname, and the space between the initials. Handling this by piling in additional parameters would get messy, how about this. If no space at the end of the initialize-with string, you get no spaces anywhere, so: H.L.A.Hart. If one space, you get a space between the initials and the surname, so: H.L.A. Hart. If two spaces, you get spaces between the initials as well, so: H. L. A. Hart.

    It's not backward compatible; styles that have "." set currently would need to be fixed. How big of a problem would that be, I wonder?
  • edited April 15, 2009
    Can anyone use this without having to edit the first names and initials out of citations?
  • edited April 15, 2009
    This isn't complicated, nor is it broken. The attribute configures the content between initials. The space between name parts is not configurable.

    Of course you can exclude initials from output; look at how the apa style configures the citation.
  • The apa style does not exclude the initials from output as far as I can tell. In fact it looks nearly identical to the one I'm using (agu). Please explain.
  • edited April 15, 2009
    I was just referring to the CSL discussion; am not sure about any Zotero bugs, except I've not seen them myself (and I use author-date styles).
  • edited April 15, 2009

    Ah, right. That makes sense. We'll keep it that way in the new processor.
  • I have the same problem as do others with in text citations that are both inconsistent and put in first or middle names in a seemingly random fashion. Sometimes I get the full name, sometimes I get initials etc. I manually edit out the full name in the database but that does not always work. I am putting to bed a 180 page manuscript and this is problematic. I am afraid that I do not understand any of the discourse of 15 April - it is far beyond my technical competence. My layman's question - how can I control the in-text citation style. Like everyone in this thread I want it to look like this (last-name, date) or (last-name, date: page 245). I need to produce this document in the next week or so.
  • edited May 1, 2009
    I think StephenHero's post above is about as complete an answer as you can get. The issue can be solved by either making sure that authors are spelled exactly the same across different items, or by changing your citation style so that it doesn't try to disambiguate between what it thinks are different authors.

    Some way to batch-wise curate author names would be very helpful, but you clearly can't wait for that.
  • If I understand, I will look at every incident of inconsistent citation and go to the database and ensure that they are all handled the same way. E.g. for me, I will always identify authors by last name and fist initial only with out a full stop. No middle names. That should do it?

    You mention output style choices. I use Harvard now but are there other outputs styles that do not try to disambiguate citation?
  • Middle names are allowed, but they should be consistent over different items for the same author.

    As for a different style: you probably still would like to use Harvard, so the easiest way might be to delete a few lines in the Harvard style and install the modified style. I put a version of Harvard up without disambiguation by adding names or initials:

    Save the file, rename the extension to .csl and drag the file into a Firefox window.
  • Thanks for this. I am a bit beyond my technical comfort zone. You suggest that I click on the above link and it will take me to a file. I save that file, change the extension to .csl then drag it into any firefox window and it will update the Harvard Style on my copy of Zotero (1.5)? This will prevent the multiple treatment of authors names both as citations and in the referencing? I take it this is a permanent change to the Harvard style?

    Many thanks.
  • edited May 5, 2009
    I save that file, change the extension to .csl then drag it into any firefox window and it will update the Harvard Style on my copy of Zotero (1.5)?
    Not really. You get an extra Harvard style.
    This will prevent the multiple treatment of authors names both as citations and in the referencing?
    It should.
    I take it this is a permanent change to the Harvard style?
    It should appear in your style collection as an additional style (named "Harvard Reference format 1 (Author-Date) - no disambiguation by adding names"). It won't replace your current copy of the Harvard style.
  • Thanks,it seems to work well. Now I don't have to continue to edit all the first names of every reference (800 +) in my database! That should work for me. I guess at some point disambiguation will be integrated into a core release of the software.
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