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Study Skills

Wolfson College Academic Skills: Reference management

Help with finding, managing and using information from the Wolfson Library Team.

There is no point searching for references, reading books and articles, and taking notes if you can't easily find a quotation or page reference when you are writing an essay or thesis.

It is also essential that you keep a record so that you can give proper accreditation to any sources you use to build your written argument. If you don't cite an idea or direct quotation, you could be accused of plagiarism. This has serious consequences for your degree. Find out more about avoiding this on the Plagiarism LibGuide.

*If you use LaTeX, you may find the following guide from the University of Melbourne useful for deciding whether to use Zotero, Medeley or BibTeX: LaTeX and Reference Management Tools

Top Tips

  1. It is never too early to begin thinking about how you will manage your references. You can use a reference manager at all stages in the writing process, from gathering ideas and brainstorming to creating the final bibliography. 
  2. Always double-check the information that is downloaded when you import a new reference. While it might take a few extra moments, once you are sure everything is correct, it will give you the peace of mind that you will not have to check at a later time. 
  3. Creating collection folders is a great way to keep all of your references on an individual project together in one place. 
  4. While the reference manager will generate subject tags for each reference based on the keywords used in the database or library catalogue from which you get your reference, you can also create your own tags to help you access items more quickly when you search for them in your reference manager.
  5. Using the Word plugin to enter references and create a bibliography will ensure that all the references used in your work will appear in the final bibliography.

Below you will find a series of videos introducing you to reference management software and two popular reference managers: Zotero and Mendeley. The Reference Management video will introduce you to some of the benefits of using a reference manager and some of the standard features available in Zotero and Mendeley. The How to Videos will walk you through downloading the reference manager of your choice and help you get started using it. You can view the videos in full screen by selecting the "Full screen" option on the bottom right of the YouTube video once you have pressed play.

How to

Try it out

Below are a set of tasks to help you get started using a reference manager. If you 

  1. Go to either the Zotero or Mendeley website and download the reference manager of your choice.

  1. After downloading the reference manager, make sure you have also downloaded the web browser and Word plugins. These plugins will be available for each reference manager.

  1. Open your reference manager and create a new "Test" collection folder.

  1. Go to iDiscover and search for a book to download into your reference manager.

  1. Search for a journal article and use the web browser plugin to download the reference into your Test folder.

  1. Download 2 or 3 PDF journal articles onto your computer. Now drag and drop them into your Test folder of your reference manager. Finally, check to ensure the reference information that has been brought across is correct.

  1. Now that you have a few references create a bibliography that you can paste into a blank Word document. If you would like to practice making a bibliography in the Department/Faculty referencing style you will be using for your work, don't forget you can find this information on the Reference Management libguide.

Find out more

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Unless otherwise stated, this work is licenced under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence by Wolfson College Cambridge.

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