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 Online

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.

Overview

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 endnote.com 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

Guides

Using EndNote Basic/ Online

EndNote X8/9
(Desktop version)

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

Overview

EndNote is one of the best known and longest established reference management products available. EndNote X9 is the latest version of the desktop software which can be downloaded to any University machine from the Software Centre.

If you want to install the desktop software to your own PC or Mac you will need to buy a personal licence from EndNote’s UK distributor. It is advisable to sign up for a free 30 day trial and to have a look at some of the free alternatives before purchasing the software.

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
  • Access to over 6800 different 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

Guides

Mendeley

Mendeley is freely available to individual users by registering for an account. It has web and desktop elements and a number of useful features.

Overview

Mendeley is free to individuals who register for an account at mendeley.com. You will also need to install the free desktop version of the software 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 6 million Mendeley users

Guides

Mendeley help guides and video tutorials

Zotero

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

Overview

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

Guides

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.