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Research Guides

What are Citation Management Systems?

What is a citation manager?

These are personal citation databases and bibliography creators that allow you to import, store, organize, and share your research citations and automatically format your bibliographies into whatever style you need (APA, MLA, Chicago, and many more). Most also allow you to annotate sources, attach pdfs and other files, and share content with others.

Which one should I use?

UW Tacoma Library provides support for RefWorks. In the table below are comparisions of three other commonly used citation managers: EndNote Basic, Mendeley, and Zotero. These citation managers provide the same basic features -- they will all allow you to save citations, organize them into folders or libraries, and generate bibliographies and citations as you write. Which one you choose depends on your own preferences and work style. It's a good idea to also talk to other researchers in your department, discipline, or research team to see if people you might collaborate with are already using one particular tool. Consider your comfort level with the different types of support offered by each tool (customer service phone number, user forums, etc.). Other factors to weigh include integration with your preferred web browser and word processing program and the amount of available storage for citations and attachments.

Although learning to use a citation management tool does take an investment in time, you can always change your mind and switch to another tool. Reference data can be easily transferred from many programs. (Please note that attachments don’t always transfer.)

Which Tool Should I Use?

 

Quick Comparison of Citation Management Software *

 

EndNote
Desktop

(not supported by UW Tacoma Library)

EndNote
Web

(not supported by UW Tacoma Library)

Mendeley

(not supported by UW Tacoma Library)

RefWorks

Zotero

(not supported by UW Tacoma Library)

Free No

Yes
(UW license)

Yes Yes
(UW license)
Yes
Web-based No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Access & edit database offline Yes No Yes No Yes
Enter in-text citations offline Yes No Yes Yes
(MS Word Only)
Yes
Supports different citation styles Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Insert citations in Word or
Open Office docs (w/installed plugin)
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Insert citations in Google docs Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Open source

No
(owned by Thomson Reuters)

No
(owned by Thomson Reuters)
No
(owned by Elsevier)

No
(owned by ProQuest)

Yes
Attach files

Yes
(no limit)

Yes
(2GB)

Yes
(2GB)

Yes
(100MB default)

Yes
(300MB)

Attach web page or screen captures No No No No Yes
Annotate pdfs within program Yes No Yes No No +
Mobile capability No Yes Yes Yes Yes
App availability Yes
(Cost $$)
No Yes No Yes
(3rd party)

* For a longer of list of citation managers and their features, see Wikipedia’s Comparison of Reference Management Software.

+ PDF management features for Zotero, including extracting annotations, are available through the ZotFile add-on.

Materials were generated by UW Tacoma Library. Last updated 2.3.16