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Reference managers: Home


This page provides a quick introduction to reference managers.

What are reference managers?

Reference management software (also known as citation managers or bibliographic managers) allow you to capture, store and organise references, and to automatically generate a bibliography/list of references.

Some also allow you to store and even annotate PDFs, and also have social networking options. Plugins for Microsoft Word, Google Docs, etc allow you to generate in-text references.

These tools work very well with articles in journals. However, not all references for books will be perfectly rendered by such tools, and some sources - particularly non academic sources - might need to be edited or entered manually.

Do I need to use this software?

If you are enthusiastic about technology, and like the idea of creating a personal library of research papers, you will enjoy using reference management software and it will almost certainly be useful to you.

This software is routinely used by PhD students and academic researchers. However, not all researchers use them, and most students on taught courses do not.

Quick alternatives

To automatically generate a reference, you can use the ‘cite this’ feature on Google Scholar and copy and paste the reference from there.

Another alternative if you are an MS Word user, is to go to the Researcher button under the ‘references’ tab, which will allow you to insert references from a collection powered by MS Bing.

As with the reference management software, you may need to edit these references.

What are my options?

The most well-known software are Refworks, Endnote, Zotero and Mendeley. The key features of these are described below.  Links to the products' own guides are provided below.  More information is available from the tabs above.


Subscription required (paid for by the university)
Plugins for MS Word, and Google Docs

Refworks user guide


Integrated browser, desktop and mobile app
Free Plugins for MS Word and Google Docs
300 MB free storage (is quite limited)

Zotero documentation (installation, quick start guide, etc)


Mendeley Reference Manager is web-based (Mendeley Desktop is still available but is no longer being developed)
Free Plugin for MS Word
Social networking Storage and in-app annotation of PDFs 2GB free storage (you have to pay if you want more)

Mendeley guides

EndNote / Endnote Basic*

Desktop and web-based versions
Subscription required for Endnote (paid for by the university)
Download from apps anywhere on university computers
Endnote Basic is free
Free Plugins for MS Word
Integration with Web of Science

Endnote training resources

EndNote basic is a more limited reference management solution that is only available online. EndNote basic users can create an online library with a maximum of 50,000 references and up to 2GB of attachments.  There are two versions of EndNote basic:

  • The free version of EndNote basic has 21 styles and a limited number of filters and connection files. Sign up to this version which is available to anybody, with no other purchase required. 
  • The version of EndNote basic available as part of the Web of Science has thousands of styles and hundreds of filters and connection files. This version is accessible via the Web of Science. You will need to create an account from within Web of Science.

Accessibility of reference managers for screen readers

EndNote, Mendeley, and Zotero are not easily accessible for screen readers. MS Word's built-in Reference option is accessible but might be limited in the number of referencing styles available.

Guidance for using the Word referencing tab with NVDA and JAWS screen readers provided by Ros Walker University of St Andrews