Allow Citations by Custom Abbreviation Only?

According to the SBL Handbook of Style, there are numerous sources that are to be cited only by an assigned abbreviation in the footnotes but then to be given in a normal format in the bibliography.

So, for instance, the following footnote would be incorrect:
1. Friedrich Blass, Albert Debrunner, and Robert Walter Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), §144.
Instead, the footnote should be:
1. BDF §144.
A subsequent citation should likewise be, e.g.:
3. BDF §56.
But, the bibliography entry should still be:
Blass, Friedrich, Albert Debrunner, and Robert W. Funk. A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.
Currently, the best way to get this output seems to be to add the footnotes manually (e.g., in a footnote without Zotero, as a prefix or suffix to a Zotero citation). Zotero then doesn't know this source had been used, so if a bibliography needs to be generated, this source and any others cited like it need to be added to the bibliography (e.g., via the Edit Bibliography tool).

Obviously, there's no way for Zotero to account for all the myriad abbreviations SBL style specifies. But, would it be possible to create an additional field or option to allow citation by an abbreviation that the user could then input and that would (if used) override the style's other processes for building "normal" footnotes?

This would remove the need to manually manipulate the bibliography at the end of a project, as well as obviate the risk of missing out a source that had been cited via something like the manual process described above.

Thanks so much for considering this request!
  • There is the idea for a "classic work" citation that could probably made to look that way -- they're typically cited in a short form in footnotes, too.

    Beyond that, if you need something more quickly, it would generally already be possible to do this in a citation style, it's just that you'd have to find a field that's used just of this purpose _and_ available in citation styles (and then this would be a custom citation styles; we wouldn't add this to the standard SBL style).
  • Adding "Annote: BDF" to the top of Extra will store the abbreviation in the CSL 'annote' variable, which is never used in official CSL styles and not used as part of any built-in Zotero fields.
  • Thank you both. The "classic work" idea is an interesting one that sounds like it might work and also be beneficial to users of other styles (e.g., Chicago, Turabian). From what you're describing, @adamsmith, it sounds like there'd be a way to specify for this item type the abbreviated footnote content while still allowing a full "normal" bibliography entry?

    @adamsmith, am I understanding correctly that the suggestion in your second paragraph is what @bwiernik has also recommended—with the exception that I'd need to find a CSL variable that is used the the SBL style?

    I'm happy to learn and use a process that's a bit less obvious, but I'm sorry for my ignorance about how to make this work. Any further guidance you might be able to offer along these lines would be most welcome.

    Thank you both so much.

  • No, what adamsmith was suggesting was to find a variable that was _not_ used by SBL to use as this sort of abbreviation. I suggested that the variable 'annote' is not used by SBL or any other standard CSL style, so it is a good candidate.

    What you would need to do is open the SBL .csl file in a text editor like Notepad or TextEdit, then find the line: <citation et-al-min="4" et-al-use-first="1" disambiguate-add-names="true">

    Next, look below that and find the line:
    <if type="entry-dictionary entry-encyclopedia" match="any">

    And change it to:

    <if variable="annote">
    <group delimiter=" ">
    <text variable="annote"/>
    <text macro="point-locators-subsequent"/>
    <else-if type="entry-dictionary entry-encyclopedia" match="any">

    Then, a few lines down, find the next </if> line and change it to </else-if>.

    Finally, change the style title and style id at the top of the style, save, and install into Zotero.
  • Thank you all so much! It looks like @bwiernik's suggestion is working like a charm so far in the side copy I made of the main SBL style. :-)

    Since this is a citation pattern that SBLHS asks for, is this something that would make sense to add back into the main SBL style? Or, is there a better way to handle this situation long-term (e.g., @adamsmith's "classic work" item type or something similar)?

    Thank you, again!
  • It would require changes to the CSL style language Zotero uses for citations. That’s possible, but won’t happen for some time.

    The Juris-M program, a third-party version of Zotero with expanded legal and multilingual features, includes a “classic” type that you could work with (and write a Juris-M version of the SBL style).
  • I have just realized that, apparently, it is possible to use whatever variabel you like for what you would like to achieve. And the interesting thing is that the variable does not even need to be in the CSL specification.

    For example, I have added two variables to the extra field:

    shorthand: MB
    notbib: true

    In a minimal style the citation and bibliography sections look like this:

    <if match="any" variable="shorthand">
    <text variable="shorthand"/>
    <names variable="author"/>
    <text variable="title" prefix=", "/>
    <if match="any" variable="notbib"/>
    <names variable="author"/>
    <text variable="title" prefix=", "/>

    With this I can use abbreviations instead of "author, title", and I can also delete a title from the bibliography with the "notbib: true". Actually, the content of the notbib variable does not matter, it can be "true", "1", "yes", or even "false", "0", "no". We only check if the variable is present.

    Of course, this is not valid CSL, but it seems to work nevertheless.
  • (note that while we guarantee that CSL variables entered this way work, the fact that this works for non-CSL variables is a fluke, possible a bug, so that might go away)
  • Thank you all so much. That's all most helpful!
  • @adamsmith There are rumors swerling around some California academic circles about a high level of conflict blocking improvements to CSL. Is there any hint of a schedule for work on completing the next version?
  • Well, in a thread on discourse this fall (= fall 2018) is mentioned as a deadline for CSL 1.1 ( I do not know if there has been much progress since, but fall is here. (I am not saying that no work has been done, only that it is hard to see if you are not part of the CSL core team).
  • I have no idea what the source of those rumours would be. I wish we had the time for high-level conflicts in CSL. There definitely aren't any. The reason for slow progress is much more mundane: Rintze and I both don't just have full time jobs but families with young kids and it's simply gotten harder to muster the sustained attention that a new release requires.

    Fall 2018 wasn't as much a deadline as a hope (though "fall" in US academic parlance is everything before Christmas, i.e. the academic fall semester). It wouldn't be a big release and I still think it's possible this year, but we're not going to make any promises.

    There is very little work on CSL that doesn't happen in the open, so if you don't see it on discourse or github, it almost certainly hasn't happened (and in this case it definitely hasn't).
  • Hello, all -

    I would love a "classic work" citation option. In philosophy, such abbreviations are quite common. For example, "Outlines of Pyrrhonism" (a.k.a. "Outlines of Skepticism/Scepticism", Πυῤῥώνειοι ὑποτυπώσεις) by Sextus Empiricus is typically abbreviated as "PH". Although sometimes it is referenced by full title in a footnote or endnote, and certainly in the Bibliography.

    These abbreviations are especially common for the in-text parenthetical styles of citation, where the author may be citing many different passages from the same work. Thus one has a reduction of visual clutter via the abbreviation.

    Of course, one would also have the flexibility to define an abbreviation for a work which does not already have one established by consensus.

    To add to the challenge (but this feature would be more of a "luxury", I should think), sometimes the abbreviation is only noted in the first instance, and then immediately following citations only include the page or section numbers. For example, this from "A Pyrrhonian Plato?" by Mauro Bonazzi, in the anthology "New Essays on Ancient Pyrrhonism": "[Sextus Empiricus] discusses the positions of Heraclitus (PH I 210-212), Democritus (213-214), the Cyrenaics (215), Protagoras (216-219), the Academy (220-235)..." Such a hybrid approach might be impossible without manual editing of the result.

    Well, here's hoping our beloved developers find a way to implement this.

    Best regards.
  • I've submitted the suggestion above by @bwiernik in a pull request on the SBL style.

    Since this thread though, I've become more aware of the issue of conflicting abbreviation specifications—even within the quite narrow field of biblical studies. E.g., here: SBL style might want one thing, but the style for the Catholic Biblical Association might occasionally want another.

    So, storing a custom citation in annote (or specifying a series abbreviation with collection-title-short) helps with any one style. But swapping between styles could pull a "wrong" output for the new style.

    I'm still making my way through the CSL manual. But it's beginning to look like (a) some way of specifying style-specific abbreviations would be necessary to handle this kind of situation without requiring continuous (re)editing of Zotero record data and (b) allowing for a variable like that would require an update to the CSL specification. Does that sound like I have that right?
  • I forgot where we left this, but generally our idea has always been that you could "swap in" different abbreviation lists from the reference manager. Those could be defined in the citation style, but they could also just be manually selected by the user.
  • The last discussion on the CSL front ended with agreement that styles should include a node in info for reference managers to read indicating which abbreviation list to use, but otherwise leave supplying the list to reference managers
  • @adamsmith, thanks for that.

    @bwiernik, am I understanding correctly then that this additional "node in info" isn't something that's currently supported in CSL or Zotero? Thanks so much for the clarification!
  • You can already change the abbreviation list that is used by Zotero (for all styles) by placing a file called 'abbreviations.json' formatted like this: into your Zotero data directory.

    You could keep a folder of several lists with descriptive names and then switch the one you are actively using to be named abbreviations.json when needed.
  • Thanks, @bwiernik. I'll give that a try.
  • @bwiernik, I now have the abbreviations.json file you mentioned in my Zotero data directory.

    As an example, I also have the following record in my Zotero database:
    TY - JOUR
    TI - Revising Tell Abu Hawam
    AU - Balensi, Jacqueline
    T2 - Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research
    DA - 1985///
    PY - 1985
    DP - JSTOR
    VL - 257
    SP - 65
    EP - 74
    SN - 0003-097X
    ST - Tell Abu Hawam
    Y2 - 2014/09/06/12:41:58
    L1 -
    ER -
    And the abbreviations.json file you mentioned includes already the line
    "bulletin of the american schools of oriental research": "BASOR",
    Yet when I use the current SBL style to cite this source, the journal name doesn't abbreviate. Instead, I get
    Jacqueline Balensi, “Revising Tell Abu Hawam,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 257 (1985): 65–74.
    This style already uses form="short" when calling the container title (ll. 369, 451) as you've recommeded elsewhere. And now it looks like the only document preferences option is to use MEDLINE abbreviations, which also doesn't pull "BASOR" from abbreviations.json.

    Would you have any insight into what step(s) I'm missing?
  • Sorry for the bother, but would anyone be able to tell what I'm missing in my above post from 15 June?

    Thanks so very much for any thoughts you may have!
  • FWIW, you do want the "MEDLINE" option checked in Word -- that actually just means "use the abbreviations.json file to abbreivate" but for 99.99% of users that's the automatically supplied one, i.e. MEDLINE.

    I haven't tested this, what you describe sound exactly right, though @bwiernik -- do you have this working?
  • Thanks for that clarification, @adamsmith. I've

    1. Added the sample abbreviations.json file that @bwiernik mentioned on 15 May to my Zotero data directory.
    2. Started Zotero. And
    3. Selected the MEDLINE abbreviation option in Word.

    But the sample resource I've mentioned above gets the journal title abbreviated as "Bulletin Of American Schools Of Oriental Research" (per MEDLINE, I assume) rather than as "BASOR" per the sample abbreviations.json file.

    I've also tried copying and pasting the journal title from abbreviations.json into the publication field in Zotero in case I had something misspelled or mis-cased.

    Am I missing something else?

    Thank you again for your help!
  • @adamsmith and @bwiernik, I may have stumbled across something helpful here.

    The sample citation I'm using above is from the "Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research," which already has an entry in the sample abbreviations.json file as "bulletin of the american schools of oriental research": "BASOR",.

    When I check to use MEDLINE abbreviations, I initially get the "abbreviation" Bulletin Of American Schools Of Oriental Research ("the" dropped, all words uppercased).

    But if I update abbreviations.json to read "bulletin of american schools of oriental research": "BASOR", (omitting the "the") and the corresponding Zotero record to have the journal title "Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research", then the abbreviation comes out BASOR just like it should.

    I'm not sure what this tells us, but it seems like there's some quirk in matching the journal title to the abbreviations list if a "the" is included.

    The same thing happens with the "Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society." Having that in the publication field in Zotero and "journal of the evangelical theological society": "JETS", in abbreviations.json yields Journal Of Evangelical Theological Society. But dropping the "the" in both places yields the expected abbreviation JETS.

    Does any of this help clarify what might be going on unexpectedly under the hood?

    Thank you so much for your thoughts!
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