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CamGuides: Software for Academic Use

Choosing reference management software

The functionality for all of the main reference management software options is roughly similar, so which one you choose doesn't really matter. A sensible move would be to see whether the libraries you might use support a specific software package.

What is marginally more difficult is ensuring that you integrate the reference management software into your workflow, especially if you're using one for the first time. It might take time to get used to it, so ensure that you have the time and space to commit to using it for a couple of weeks, and always seek help from the staff at your college or subject library if you're struggling with functionality.

I used Zotero because it was advised by my Faculty. It's really sorted out all of the referencing system with the style and everything.

- MPhil Education student, 2017-18

Zotero

Zotero is one of the more popular and well-known reference managers. It's free to download, and works with a huge variety of different referencing styles.

You can download citations to Zotero via a browser extension, manually, or via adding an ISBN or DOI. It comes with a Microsoft Word and LibreOffice extension so that you can easily create perfect in-text citations or footnotes as you're writing essays or assignments. It allows you to add notes to your citations and to tag them, and these are all searchable. It's cloud-based, so if you create an account you're at no risk of losing your references even if something happens to your computer. It will store PDFs for you, and these can be easily indexed so that you can search inside them; you can also download a free program called Zotfile which will allow you to annotate PDFs and then extract and save those annotations. Zotero offers significant support for use with screen readers.

Find out more about how Zotero works:

Mendeley

Mendeley logo

Mendeley allows you to download citations quickly, to store them on multiple devices and to annotate PDFs from within the reference manager itself. It's free to download, and backs up your references to the cloud. It allows you to create in-text citations and footnotes as you write, working specifically with Microsoft Word and LibreOffice. Mendeley also offers a neat way of surfacing similar research and articles to the resources you're saving to it. It offers good functionality for group work and collaborating with others.

More information on Mendeley:

 

Zotero and Mendeley on tablets

Both Zotero and Mendeley work well with an app called Papership, which offers additional functionality around working with and annotating PDFs. It syncs to your Zotero or Mendeley accounts, and currently offers a helpful way of working with your Zotero or Mendeley libraries on a tablet device.

 
Endnote

the Endnote logo from January 2018

EndNote is a powerful reference management system which allows you to save and store references from multiple places, to search these and share them with others, and to create in-text citations and footnotes directly into Microsoft Word. It works really well with PubMed and Web of Science, which you can search directly from within EndNote itself. You'll have access to thousands of citation styles. One version of EndNote is designed specifically for an iPad, which might be really helpful.

As a University of Cambridge student you will have free access to EndNote and EndNote Web for the duration of your course. When your course ends, your account will switch to EndNote Basic (which offers most of the same functionality). 

For more information:

 
Citavi

the Citavi logo

Citavi allows you to search and save references to it directly from library catalogues, to save snapshots of websites as (searchable) PDFs, to annotate your PDFs and to add substantial notes to them - it also allows you to extract highlights from PDFs which is particularly helpful as a way of storing page references for useful quotations. It's all entirely searchable and you can organise your research and PDFs in a variety of different ways. Citavi allows you to set up saved searches and will pull any results from RSS feeds into your Citavi library. You can create in-text citations and footnotes directly in Microsoft Word, with a huge number of citation styles available, and Citavi also works well with LaTeX. 

For more information:

 

 
Alternative reference management software

Zotero, Mendeley, Endnote and Citavi are only some of the options available to you. Others include:

  • ReadCube: this is really PDF management software which also functions as a reference manager. It allows you to download, annotate, take notes, and store PDFs in the cloud. It's particularly good at working with Google Scholar and PubMed, and highlights research papers similar to the ones you have saved.
  • Qiqqa: like ReadCube, the focus of Qiqqa is PDF management - it allows you to group together and give themes to the research you download, works well with annotations, and basically helps you to keep things organised. It's also free to use.
  • BibDesk: this is reference management software for MacOS that works particularly well with LaTeX. It integrates directly with Google Scholar and arXiv.
  • You'll find dozens of comparisons of various reference management packages available - here's a particularly extensive one from Wikipedia.