Reference management

Developing an effective system for keeping track of your references is an essential element of research, particularly if you are likely to be dealing with large numbers of references.

Reference management software can help in this task by enabling you to:

  • save, organise and retrieve your references securely
  • link full text PDFs and other file types to your references
  • annotate references and PDFs with your own notes
  • generate citations and bibliographies in a range of styles (eg Harvard)
  • set up groups to share references and collaborate with other researchers

There are many different referencing software packages available; some are free and others require a subscription or one-off purchase. The following are all well-established and commonly used at The University of Sheffield:

EndNote 20
(Desktop version)

The desktop version of EndNote, a commercial referencing package licensed for use on University machines and supported by the University of Sheffield.

The desktop version of EndNote, a commercial referencing package, is licensed for use on University machines and available for download for staff and students free of charge through IT services.


EndNote is one of the best known and longest established reference management products available.
EndNote 20 is the latest version of the desktop software which can be downloaded to any University
machine from the Software Centre or onto your own laptop. 
While it can take some time to learn how to use EndNote desktop, it does have some strengths
compared to online products and can be easily synchronised with the web version.

Key points

  • Store an unlimited number of references in your EndNote library
  • Ensure your bibliography is accurate with refreshed journal and referencing styles
  • Simple synchronisation with EndNote online
  • Enhanced features include Find Full Text, which will automatically link PDFs to corresponding references
  • Cite While You Write function enables you to generate citations and bibliographies quickly and easily
  • Fully customisable referencing styles


EndNote Basic

The free version of EndNote with many of the same features as the desktop, useful for accessing your references on different devices and from different locations.


EndNote online is the web-based version of the desktop referencing software and is free to anyone who registers for an account.

If you register by accessing EndNote online via the Web of Science database you will also get access to significantly more bibliographic styles than by registering directly via the website.

Key points

  • 2GB of file storage (for linking full text documents and images to references)
  • Capacity to store up to 50,000 references
  • Sync to EndNote desktop for access to additional features
  • Cite While You Write plug-in enables you to generate citations and bibliographies


Using EndNote Basic/ Online


Mendeley is freely available to individual users by registering for an account. We recommend using the Mendeley Reference Manager and Mendeley Cite, rather than the desktop app. 

Mendeley is free to individuals who register for an account at You will also need to install the free reference manager to use the citation plug-in, which will enable you to generate
citations and bibliographies in Microsoft Word.
Mendeley functions as both a reference manager and an academic social network, where registered users can search for academic papers, people and research groups.

Key points

  • Effective web importer for capturing bibliographic data directly from your internet search results (eg Google Scholar)
  • Intuitive interface and operability
  • Drag and drop function to add PDFs of references to your Mendeley Library
  • Community of millions of Mendeley users


Mendeley help guides and video tutorials


 A free, open source reference manager with versions available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.


A well-established reference management package, free to use and operated as a not-for-profit research resource, Zotero allows you to find and organise references, add citations and bibliographies to your text documents and share and collaborate with unlimited numbers of other Zotero users. A quick bibliography generator, ZoteroBib, is also available.

Key points

  • Automatic research paper recognition using the Save to Zotero web capture tool
  • Over 8000 different referencing styles available
  • Ability to sync data across multiple devices
  • Independent and nonprofit, so your data is not used for commercial purposes


Zotero Quick Start Guide

Citation generators

If you only need to add a small number of references to a document, citation generators may be a suitable alternative.

Both StarPlus and Google Scholar can display the reference information for an item in many of the most frequently used styles, including Harvard, APA and MLA.