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Citation Management Tools: Overview

Find the best citation management tool based on your particular research needs.

What is a citation?

Working in a library writing an essayA citation....

  • is made up of the pieces of information that point you to a specific book, article, or website
  • helps you  "gives credit" to other people's ideas when you are writing (and avoid plagiarism) 
  • allows others who read your work to find the original source you are quoting or paraphrasing

A variety of citation management tools (sometimes also described as reference management tools) have been developed over the years to help you collect, organize, and cite the books and articles you find and ultimately use in your writing. These tools easily allow you to produce bibliographies in all the major citation styles (e.g. APA, Chicago, and MLA).

Photo taken by Tim Riley on September 18, 2006. Used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Which citation management tool is best for me?

With so many citation and research management software tools available, how do you know which one will work best for you? It's worth asking yourself a few basic but important questions before deciding on which citation manager you're going to use to support your research projects.

Use the chart below to determine which application would work best for your research and then the tabs across the top to learn more about each citation management tool.

You would like to... Suggested application(s) Reason
work on multiple computers

End Note Web, ProQuest Flow, Zotero, Mendeley

Zotero (PC/Mac/Linux) allows you the flexibility to sync your references across multiple computers as well as access your references online by logging into your Zotero account at

Mendeley Desktop can be downloaded onto as many computers as you want and has full support for PC/Mac/Linux operating systems. Data synced on the desktop client is automatically backed up to the cloud.

collect numerous web-based references and sources Zotero, ProQuest Flow Zotero's translators make saving web-based content to your Zotero library very easy. Zotero allows you to capture websites and other web resources with one click. Zotero takes a snapshot of the website as it appears the moment you save it to your library. You won't have to worry about captured web content changing since Zotero stores the snapshot in your library. You can also add annotations to snapshots.
work collaboratively with others

Mendeley, EndNote Web, ProQuest Flow

Use Zotero Groups to easily share your resources with others either privately or publicly. 

Mendeley offers group functionality as well: open, invite-only, or private group members can share papers and notes.

EndNote Web offers a Groups function to share references with other EndNote Web users.

maintain access to your sources (i.e. beyond graduation, job change) so that you can continue to add over time Zotero, Mendeley, Qiqqa, ProQuest Flow Many institutions offer citation tools while you're affiliated with the organization (student, faculty, staff). Once you graduate or leave that institution, your access to certain resources may be terminated. Use Zotero, Mendeley, and/or Qiqqa and you'll never have to worry about losing any of your academic resources.
organize a large number of PDF files that you already have saved on your computer Mendeley, Qiqqa, Zotero

Each of these tools (Mendeley, Qiqqa, and Zotero) allows you to organize your PDF collection as well as index them for easy searching and citing.

Note that Qiqqa is currently only available for Windows PC.

generate a bibliography quickly for an assignment BibMe, EasyBib, Zotero

Web-based applications BibMe and EasyBib can quickly format a citation for you online which you can then copy and paste into your document, export to Microsoft Word, or save online for later.

Using Zotero's Quick Copy function, you can drag and drop a citation from your Zotero library into any text field (word processing document, Google doc, email, blog post, etc.) in order to instantly generate a works cited or bibliography.

quickly cite a work in a popular bibliographic style (APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian) BibMe, EasyBib Both BibMe and EasyBib allow you to generate a citation very quickly using their Citation Guides. You can easily copy and paste the citation for quick use anywhere.
cite a work within my document
Zotero, EndNote Web, Qiqqa, ProQuest Flow

With Zotero, you can reference your Zotero library directly from your word processing document in order to add an in-text citation using a word processor integration plugin.

Using EndNote Web's Cite While You Write™ feature, you can cite references within your Microsoft Word document.

Using Qiqqa's new Qiqqa InCite feature, you can create bibliographies and format your references using Microsoft Word.

use a free tool  Zotero, Mendeley, ProQuest Flow, Qiqqa, BibMe, EasyBib

All of these tools are freely available for you to download (Zotero, Mendeley, Qiqqa) or start using online (BibMe, EasyBib) at any time.

* Note that upgrades in storage space and other premium features for certain applications are not free.

use a desktop application to be installed on my main computer, on which I will conduct most of my research
Mendeley, Qiqqa Mendeley (PC/Mac/Linux) is primarily a desktop program that work very well if you plan to use the same computer during your research. Mendeley offers web-based access to your collected citations but are most robust if used on your primary computer.
work offline when I do not have acess to the Internet Zotero, Mendeley, Qiqqa, EndNote Web Zotero, Mendeley, and Qiqqa all save your references and citations locally on your computer and can be accessed offline. Zotero, in particular, stores your library in your Firefox profile.
work in a specific citation style Zotero, Qiqqa

Zotero comes standard with about 16 citation styles but you can view an extensive list of all available styles at their website which you can download and install into your Zotero instance.

Given that Zotero is open source, if you don't see the specific citation style that you need, you can contact Zotero and they can work on its development. You can even create your own citation style.

Qiqqa supports all Citation Language Styles (CSL), just like Zotero.

use a tool that works on my mobile device

Mendeley, EasyBib,  Zotero,

Mendeley Reference Manager (Lite) is available for free download at the iTunes App Store.

EasyBib has an iPhone app that you can download for free from the iTunes App Store.

Android and iOS App developers have been hard at work creating a variety of Zotero mobile applications

Qiqqa now has an Android Version in beta (and the Web Library is available from any mobile browser)

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    Creative Commons License

    Creative Commons License
    This adaption of the Citation and Research Management Tools LibGuide by Marie Sciangula is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States LicenseRe-use of this adaption by Andrew Whitis is granted under the same Creative Commons Attibution-NonCommerical 3.0 license.