Citation managers are desktop or web based programs that allow you to collect, organize, share, and cite references.
While it might seem like citation managers are an "easy" way to cite your references and create bibliographies, you should always double-check what the program has generated. Citation managers are only as good as the information you put into them, so if there is information lacking in the citation manager, then that information will be missing from your final reference. You should also make sure that the formatting of the reference/citation is in accordance with the citation style you are using.
There are many websites out there that will list reviews of citation manager software, or provide comparisons of different products. In the end, testing out a product for yourself is what will help you come to your conclusion. Below is a list of questions you should keep in mind when evaluating different citation managers for yourself.
Key questions to choosing the right citation manager for you:
|Ease of Use/Usability||
|What features should my reference management software offer?||
|Where do I usually work?||
Adapted from Universitätsbibliothek Technische Universität München, (2016), “Reference Management Software Comparison”, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
Ivey, C., & Crum, J. (2018). Choosing the right citation management tool: Endnote, Mendeley, Refworks, or Zotero. Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA, 106(3), 399–403. https://doi.org/10.5195/jmla.2018.468
You should also ask yourself "what research am I using this for?" If you are just looking to get a citation manager for a single assignment that requires minimal resources (5-10), you may be better off keeping track of these on your own through other means.
There are many different citation managers and multiple sources that offer comparisons.
For quick reference, we have compiled a comparison chart of two widely used, free-to-use citation managers:
|Cost||Free||Free (Open Source)|
|Language||English (Source Language), being translated into 54 languages. Full list here: https://www.transifex.com/zotero/zotero/||English|
|Installation||Desktop, Web based||Desktop, Web based|
|Platforms||Windows, macOS, Linux||Windows (7 or later), macOS, Linux|
>Third party mobile apps: https://www.zotero.org/support/mobile
Firefox, Chrome, Safari
|Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari|
|Browser Plug-Ins||Firefox, Chrome, Safari||Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari|
Yes - Databases with specific export format (e.g. RIS, BibTeX)
|Yes - Databases with specific export format (e.g. RIS, BibTeX) or COinS format|
|Document Types Supported||33 document types||20 document types|
Yes (folders; multiple levels; automatic allocations and multiple allocations possible)
Yes (folders; multiple levels; multiple allocations possible)
|Citation Styles Supported||16 citation styles with installation||16 citation styles with installation|
|Word Processor Integration||
Microsoft Word plug-in + OpenOffice and LibreOffice extensions
|Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, Google Docs|
Community forums on website are also a resource for help.
They also have video tutorials on YouTube:
Information modified from Universitätsbibliothek Technische Universität München, (2016), “Reference Management Software Comparison”, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
From: Ivey, C., & Crum, J. (2018). Choosing the right citation management tool: EndNote, Mendeley, RefWorks, or Zotero. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 106(3), 399-403.
Most citation managers can be set-up for the Check for Full Text @ MSVU service. This will make it so that you do not have to store all the files in you Library locally, allowing you to free up storage space. To do this:
Once you've set this up, you can check for full text via the MSVU Library for any article in your Library.