References or Bibliography

Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition / Applied Linguistics / Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language / TESL / TESOL/ ESL / ESOL and Language Learning

Importing the text file into a database program.

Go to the page where the file is. This page is only for those who are not comfortable with database programs.


If you have never used databases before don't worry. It's quite easy. First you need a database program such as Filemaker , 4D, Microsoft Access or EndNote (there are many freebies and demos on the Internet so look around and find the one you like). I wrote this in Filemaker (there is a trial version online) and I advise using that if at all possible. (Personally I have found Microsoft Access rather troublesome. Microsoft Access likes to know about the characters in the file, and the few attempts I have made to import it into Access result in it always asks for how to deal with unusual characters such as umlauts and so on. This makes the importing job into Access quite difficult.). EndNote is great but formats the references in a different way to this file (the last time I looked). At a pinch you can import it to Excel, but you may need a lot of memory to do it and it won't be easy to search quickly without some fiddling around.


(If you have Filemaker or a trial version, you can skip this section if you wish to use the simple database template for macs (bibliog.bin) and another for PCs (bibliog.fp5) (I hope I got it right) instead of making your own. Just download it, store it in a safe place on your computer, then download the main text file and import it to the template. See below for a few basic hints on using the template)

If you want to make your own database and not use the template, then you need to start a new database file - call it 'SLA Bibliography' or something easy to remember. As it is a new file you will have to tell the database what 'fields' you want. Your database program may ask you what fields you want to create. There are 23000 'records' (references) in the text file and each record has 4 fields. In this textfile each record (reference) is separated by a carriage return to mark the end of a record. Each field in each record is separated by a tab to show where one field stops and another starts. A 'field' is a separate piece of information about each part of each reference. The 4 fields are:-


For example, the bare textfile looks like this.

Abberton, Evelyn. (Tab) 1963 (Tab) Some persistent English vocabulary problems for speakers of Serbo-Croatian. (Tab) English Language Teaching Journal. 22, 167-172 (carriage return).
Abdullah, K. I. (Tab) July 1993 (Tab) Teaching reading vocabulary: from theory to practice. (Tab) English Teaching Forum. 10-26 (carriage return).

I wrote (tab) and (carriage return) above because I don't know how to show them in HTML.

Of course, you can use your own field labels, mine are just a guide.

I strongly suggest that you add a few extra fields when you set up the database. A 5th field (I use the field label 'Location') can be used to make a note as to whether you have a hard copy of the reference, or whether you need to find it in the library or order it ,or whatever. You can then search this 5th field and quickly find and print out what you need to look for in the library without having to search the whole database file again. A sixth field (Notes?) may allow you to annotate or summarize the work for quick reference. You may also wish to add a 'date modified' field so you know when you last updated something. (All this has been done in the database template for macs (bibliog.bin) and another for PCs (bibliog.fp3))


Once you have set up the fields, you need to import it (in Filemaker from the File menu). Open the text file (biblio.txt) from within the software database you just created to import the records. Tell your database what kind of file this is (a plain text ASCII file) so it knows how to translate it as it imports the file. You may have to select the file type from a pop-up box. The file is a simple plain text (.txt) tabbed file (saved from a Macintosh) but VERY long (about 4.6 megabytes). You need to tell the software which piece of data goes in which field. Select 'Import' once you have double checked that the data are going into the correct fields.

When (or as) the file is imported, the software may wish to 'index' the words in each field the first time you search. This is only done ONCE to make searches very fast, so don't worry about the slowness of it the first time. I usually find searches are done within 1-3 seconds once the file has been indexed. If you want Filemaker to index the file as you import it open the 'options' then 'storage options' and click 'index'. This will save you the wait the first time you try to search.


The resulting file may end up 20MB or more, so think what you can do to back it up. Then make a backup. Play with the database a bit and look at the help files for tips on how to improve searching / layout etc. Note that in Filemaker once you delete a record it is gone forever and Undo only works once. Be warned!

Searching in Filemaker

To search for references in Filemaker select Find from the Mode menu. Enter your search terms in the appropriate field and click 'Find'.

Why have fields? Fields allow you to search each field independently or at the same time and it can significanlty reduce the number of misleading 'hits'. For example, you can search for pre-1950 references on Vocabulary lists by putting ' <1950' in the Year field and then 'vocabulary list' in the Title field. This will find all references that meet these two criteria. If you had only put 'vocabulary list' in the Title field you would also have post 1950 references that you do not need.

Hints in Filemaker for easy viewing so you can see dozens of records (references) at once.

In Filemaker, go to Layout from the Mode menu and drag and resize the fields to make them into a line across the page (use Align to neaten them if you wish). Drag the field names to the header. Drag the Body section up under the fields. delete the footer if you don't want it. Then in Browse mode (mode menu) select 'View as list' from the Select menu. This will make it look like a spreadsheet. If it doesn't, then either you are not browsing any records or the fields are too close to the header (go back to Layout and adjust them). (All this has been done already in the database template for macs (bibliog.bin) and another for PCs (bibliog.fp5)).

More hints on using the Filemaker template

bulletTo Import biblio.txt , select Import from the File menu
bulletAdd your new records from New on the Mode menu
bulletDelete records from the mode menu. Be careful they will be gone forever!
bulletCreate a new layout in Layout mode (Mode menu)
bulletAdd new fields from the File / Define menu.
bulletClick the buttons in the header to sort by that field
bulletYou can edit the 'Location' Pop-up box with 'Edit' on the popup
bulletYou can modify font and size etc. in Layout Mode (Mode menu)
bulletYou can find all the references again from the Select menu
bulletUse help to find out more about Filemaker
bulletTo import your own records, make a text file with each field tabbed as in the example above. Plain TEXT Files only!! Filemaker cannot read Word files.
bullet'Omit' does not delete, It only puts the record out of view
bulletPrint using the Script 'print these references' or it will not print all the fields on the page
bulletYou can change layout views by selecting from the top left box of the window (now labelled Main View).

Go to the page where the main text file is.

Go to the Vocabulary Frequency Lists.
Go to the Vocabulary Reference database
Go to the Main Vocabulary index