UW Radiology

Citation management software: Which one should I use?


Pybliographer, EndNote, Zotero, Mendeley, Papers, RefWorks, Docear … sometimes it seems like every software company has a citation manager to offer. If you’re doing research and you have a long list of citations to keep track of, efficient management software is a must. Below are some questions and links that can help you make the choice.

What software is commonly used in your department or discipline?

If you’re collaborating with others, using a common citation manager will help you share sources with your teammates with minimal fuss. You’ll also want to check out what the software offers in the way of group work or folder sharing. Mendeley’s free iteration, for example, will let you create only one private group folder with two other people.

How much are you willing to pay?

Some managers, like Mendeley and Zotero, are free in their basic iterations. Others come with a price — though in at least one case (EndNote Desktop), the UW’s IT Connect offers it at a discount.

What kind of OS do you use?

Some managers support Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Unix, and a host of apps. Others are more limited.

What kind of information are you keeping track of?

Many managers won’t allow you to import citations straight from Medline. Others won’t let you attach PDFs to citations, or allow notes or annotations.

Do you want local support?

The UW Libraries offer support for four citation tools: Zotero, EndNote Basic, Mendeley, and RefWorks. If you’re new to these tools, it can be helpful to have on-site experts.

What bells and whistles do you need?

Do you want to import citations to your paper as you write? Do you have to create a subject bibliography? Do you need duplication detection? If your paper has only thirty or so references, you might be OK with a more basic tool. But if you’re running a systematic review with thousands of citations, you’ll probably benefit from a more sophisticated manager.


Need a side-by-side comparison of citation managers?

Wikipedia compares a broad range of managers. If you prefer an academic source, try the University of Washington or the University of Wisconsin–Madison.


Photo credit: ikinitip on Pixabay.