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Citing Sources and Managing Citations

Citation tracking software using Refworks, Zotero, and Mendeley.

Overview of Citation Management

Citation managers are indispensable for serious academic research, allowing users to keep organized records of the sources they find and include in their research.

Citation managers allow you to create and track references, or 'citations', and to create bibliographies or reference lists formatted in the style appropriate to that discipline, such as APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, and many others. Citation managers allow users to import resource records directly from academic databases such as Academic Search Premier, PsycINFO, JSTOR, Web of Science, and most others. You may add organize your records into folders and groups and add notes and other metadata, such as abstracts, keywords and often documents themselves (pdfs) to enhance and improve the efficiency of your research.

Why use a citation manager?

  • Organize your references according to your needs
  • Eliminate duplicate citations
  • Create bibliographies and references directly from searches
  • Create your own critical abstracts and notes
  • Re-use or re-purpose citations throughout your academic career
  • Embed footnotes/endnotes directly within your text editors

Choosing a Citation Manager

Citation managers are tools which see heavy use by serious researchers, and it's important to use an application that you find easy enough to use and powerful enough for your needs.  You may wish to begin by using what your colleagues are using—most citation managers allow the limited sharing of reference libraries. Using the same application as your colleagues may mean you can ask them for help in learning the ins-and-outs of the application. However, the library offers workshops and other training, and librarian experts are available for one-on-one instruction in Refworks, Mendeley, and Zotero.

  RefWork Zotero Mendeley
  • Allows users to share citations
  • Good for organizing citations for papers
  • Web-based
  • Since UND has a site license, there's no cost
  • Available to UND alumni as long as UND maintains its subscription
  • Simple download of records
  • Good for managing a variety of formats, including web pages
  • Lots of functionality in an open-source product.
  • Downloads records from several databases that don't work with other citation products, including Factiva, USPTO, Espacenet, & FreePatentsOnline.
  • Can share citations and documents with others
  • Great for managing PDFs
  • Does a good job of pulling citation metadata from PDFs
  • Can share citations and documents with others
Cost Free to Notre Dame students, staff and faculty

Free with 300MB of back-up storage. Storage & group upgrades available for a reasonable monthly fee. Open source. 

Download Zotero.

Free with 2GB of web space. Mendeley users have access to enhanced storage and group upgrades. See our Mendeley guide for details.

Download Mendeley.

Learning curve Quick to learn. Quick to learn; simple design, many online user guides and demos. Quick to learn; Pretty simple interface.
How does it work? You export references from compatible databases into RefWorks Zotero can tell when you are looking at an item and shows an icon for it in the browser's URL bar.  Click the icon to add the item to your Zotero references. Export references from compatible databases. Mendeley will also retrieve metadata for pdfs that are brought in.
How simple is it to import records? Very simple. Very simple, as long as the resource is compatible with Zotero. Very simple using the Mendeley browser plugin. However, the import doesn't work with as many databases as other products.
What kinds of records can you import and organize (PDFs, images, etc.)? Records for articles and books.

Traditional formats (books, articles, patents), as well as web pages.

PDFs, web screenshots, and other file types can also be stored in the records.

Best with records for traditional formats (articles, books, etc.).

PDFs and other file types can also be stored in the records.

Can you search within PDFs? Yes. Only .pdf and .txt files, along with file names are searched when the attachments checkbox is selected. Yes. Make PDFs searchable by choosing to index them in the preferences menu. Yes. Highlights the words you are searching for.
Are records in your library viewable by others? Yes; Users can share references in library with other RefWorks users Yes, if you choose to share them. You can set up individual and group profiles and share records. Yes, if you choose to share them. You can set up individual and group profiles and share records.
Can you export records to other citation software? Allows you to export records to other RefWorks users, or in a format compatible with other bibliographic database management programs. Yes. Yes.
Does it work with word processing software? Yes: Write N Cite plug-in works with Microsoft Word 2000 and up; Mac 2004, 2008 and up; Use On-line/Cite View for all platforms, browsers, and word processors. Yes. Works with Word and LibreOffice; also works with LaTeX through BibTeX. You can create a list of Works Cited for Google Docs.

Yes. Works with Word and OpenOffice. See versions supported; also works with LaTeX through BibTeX.


Does it back up your records? Yes. Yes, if you choose to back up or sync your Zotero library. A small amount of storage is free. Yes.
Can you annotate PDFs (highlight & make notes)? No. No. Yes.
Other important features
  • Since it's web-based, you're not limited to a single machine.
  • PDF file management and organization.
  • Will automatically attach PDFs to records if you choose
  • Can work with out being connected to the internet.
  • If you back up records, you can sync multiple computers
  • Integrated with work on web that you do
  • Allows for tagging
  • Saves snapshots of web pages
  • Can highlight text and take notes on page
  • Very good for collaborative work
  • If you back up records, you can sync multiple computers.
  • Can work with out being connected to the internet.
Does it have a mobile site or app? Yes. Yes, a mobile site through There's also an app called ZotPad for iPhone/iPad. Yes, an app for iPhone/iPad.
Collaborate? RefShare provides url access for other RefWorks and/or non-RefWorks users; Web page is dynamic and has user-specified functionality. Can specify permissions for sharing to whole database or folder level. Can create group accounts for full editing/sharing functionality. Yes, both with individuals and groups. Yes.
Can it store and cite images? Yes Yes. Yes
Can you search with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT)? Yes Yes. No.
Can you use from your personal database? Yes, automatically uses links. Yes. Yes.
Link to vendor documentation Quick-Start Guides Documentation Support