Citation Managers

Citation Managers


Citation Managers are specialized programs used to collect, annotate, organize, share and create formatted bibliographies of articles and other reference materials – in effect a digital file cabinet for your research. Many managers collect citation information directly from online databases and research databases, can efficiently generate formatted bibliographies in a variety of citation formats, and can even format in-text citations and reference lists directly in documents. Changing citation formats can be done with a simple click of a button.


Maintaining good records of sources used in your scholarship improves efficiency. Citation managers can be an excellent aid in organizing your own research. Scaffolded experiences using citation managers tied to student assignments can help students think critically about what organizational methods they use when collecting and tracking sources.


  1. Check with your institution to see what citations managers are provided or recommended.
  2. Create an online account for your citation manager and install any required software.
  3. Start to build your database or collection of sources by importing them from online databases or websites. Some managers allow you to attach files such as the PDF of an article or a snapshot of a website.
  4. Use features provided by your manager (collections, folders, tags, etc.) to organize collected material.
  5. Use provided bibliography styles in your citation manager to create a formatted reference list or use cite-while-you-write feature to insert in-text citations, footnotes or endnotes directly into a paper.


  • Students who are inexperienced with large research projects may need to be convinced that using a citation manager is worthwhile.
  • Remind students to double check reference lists against the rules of the citation style. Imported references can be incomplete and there are some citation style rules that simply cannot be replicated by an automated process.
  • Many different citation managers are available and features vary. Do some research to determine which manager is the best fit for you.
  • If you are collaborating with others on a project, it is best to all use the same citation manager.




Ivey, Camille. and Janet Crum. “Choosing the Right Citation Management Tool: Endnote, Mendeley, Refworks, or Zotero.” Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA vol. 106,3 (2018): 399–403. doi:10.5195/jmla.2018.468

“Comparison of Reference Management Software.” Wikipedia, 17 June 2019. Wikipedia,

Yatcilla, Jane. Library Guides: Citation Management at Purdue: Citation Management Basics. Accessed 19 June 2019.

Featured Image “IMG_5633”by KimMcKelvey is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0



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