Citation management software

What citation management software does

Citation management software allows you to manage your research.  It allows you to collect, store, organize, cite and sometimes share your references.  Some have plugins that work with Microsoft Office,  which allow you to add in-text citations and a bibliography to your paper.

Choosing your software

Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How easy is it to use?
  • Can I directly import references?
  • How easy is it to create a bibliography?
  • Is it free?

Some options include:

Note: Citation management software is most useful when you’re completing a large research project, working in a research team or trying to manage multiple projects.  If you’re working on a project with a small number of references, it’s often easier to create your own bibliography.

See the Library Citation Management guide to learn more about these software.

What to look out for
  • You still have to know the citation style.  Mistakes happen and it’s important to check your bibliography before you submit it.
  • The quality of your reference is directly related to the quality of information you add to the system.  If you’re importing references, there may be some discrepancies and errors in the information.  You can easily fix this by editing the reference itself.  Look for mistakes and correct them. 
  • Not all referencing styles are included in citation management tools, or many editions of a particular style might be included.  It’s important to choose the right version of the citation style.  If your required style is not included, you can change an existing one to suit your needs.
Avoid “citation on the fly” plugins

These tools allow you to enter the bibliographic information of a work and then generate a single reference.  These tools have numerous shortcomings:

  • Limited number of citation styles
  • No option to save, store or manipulate your references
  • Less reliability and accuracy than citation management software

Switching citation managers

If you choose the wrong citation manager,  you can usually export your reference library and import it to another product.  It might require a bit of research to find the necessary steps but your subject librarian is there to help.   
 

Next: Evaluation criteria

Back to top