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Writing & Citing: Reference Managers

What are reference managers?

When was the last time you sat up until 3 in the morning trying to get your citations squared away right before the deadline? Tired of forgetting where you got that perfect article? What about remembering what sources you still needed to read and review?

No more! Reference managers can help!

Reference managers are tools that help you:

  1. keep track of articles, books, and other sources you might use in your writing,
  2. organize, read, and annotate those materials, and
  3. automatically generate in-text citations and bibliographies in your papers!

The River Campus Libraries offer and support a ton of different reference managers. Find one that works for you, and never spend the last few hours of a paper fighting with citations again!

Which reference manager is for me?

Feel free to try two or three different ones and see what you like! They all specialize in different additional features and act in slightly different ways, but they will do the same primary things: keeping track of sources, helping you organize them, and generating citations and bibliographies. 

Some tips on where to start:

  • I work mostly with PDFs.
    • Mendeley tends to do the best at managing PDFs of journal articles and book chapters.
  • I use a lot of different computers, so something web-based would be best.
    • RefWorks is web-based and easy to get started with.
    • All of the others will let you see you library of references from a web interface too, but may not be as full-featured on the web.
  • I need to keep track of a bunch of attachments: art pieces, images, data sets...
    • Zotero might be a good place to start, because it makes it obvious how a general record relates to a bunch of attachments.
  • I need to customize how the software interacts with my citations.
    • ‚ÄčEndNote has the steepest learning curve, but it also has the most flexibility in formatting citations.
  • My group wants to share references using this software.
    • ‚ÄčEndNote and Refworks have the most robust tools for sharing references among a group. (For free, at least.)

How to get help

Ask an expert!

See the provider's documentation!

For RefWorks, start with their Introduction to Refworks guide.

Mendeley offers a number of Getting Started guides and Video Tutorials.

EndNote's support page has a ton of great resources.

Zotero has a robust documentation page including screencasts.

Reference Managers we support

Do you have a favorite reference manager that we haven't listed here? Let us know by email and we'll see about adding it here.

Mendeley: Getting started

Mendeley has a both a desktop client and a web version. Using both together works really well - in the web version, you can easily add citations from any computer, and there is a "suggest" function that will show you similar articles to the one in your Mendeley library. The desktop version is great for editing citations, adding tags, and adding references to your paper-in-progress.

  1. Getting started: download the desktop version here, when you sign up for an account:
  2. Add the web importer to your browser.  This will make importing citations from library databases and Google Scholar incredibly easy. 
  3. Let's add some articles! You can drag-and-drop pdfs into the Mendeley desktop window. You can even drag entire folders of pdfs, and Mendeley will read the available metadata (info about the source) and let you know if it was successful.  If your pdf is just scanned images (jpg, for instance), it's unlikely to find the metadata, but if it's from a database, it nearly always finds the right information. 
  4. You can also add sources using the web importer. Do a search in and click the "Save to Mendeley" button in your browser bar. You'll see all the articles on the page in the sidebar. Choose which ones you'd like to add with a single click on the + button, and when you see the green checkmark, it's in!

You can add citations to your paper in progress with a Microsoft Word plugin under the "Tools" menu. 

If you use another word-processing application, you can just drag and drop the citation from Mendeley into your Google doc or Pages file for the bibliography.  You'll have to manually enter the author-date for in-text citations.



RefWorks: getting started

To begin, sign up for a new account at the link above. You'll need to allow popups for RefWorks to work properly.

For a series of short, introductory videos, they are on YouTube here

With RefWorks, you can automatically import your citations with just the click of a button!  Look for the "export" button, and choose RefWorks, and they will be added to your citation list. 

Below is a very short video showing you how easy it is!

RefWorks also has Write-n-Cite, which is a plugin for Microsoft Word. It allows you to add citations to your paper as you write it, using any citation style you prefer, and easily add a "works cited" page at the end!

Zotero: getting started

Zotero is the best tool for capturing web pages, videos and blog sites. They have a great 3-minute introduction hereIt works best with Firefox, but is compatible with any browser. 

Zotero lets you easily import citations right from your browser.  It allows you to cite these sources in Microsoft Word and other word processing programs. 

Here's a quick peek from the librarians at Wake Forest showing just how easy it is to use:

Getting Started With Zotero, from Idaho State University Libraries:

EndNote: getting started

EndNote is available for Windows and Mac OS X. Copies downloaded from the link above are licensed through the University of Rochester Libraries, so you don't have to pay for it! You'll get free updates as long as you're affiliated with the University.

An additional user guide is available on your computer:

  • Windows: usually ...\Program Files\EndNote X7\EndNoteX7WinHelp.pdf
  • Mac: usually .../Applications/EndNote X7/EndNoteX7MacHelp.pdf

EndNote has a desktop version (link above) and an online version that you can link to hereThis allows you to add references to your library from any computer.

Below is an example of taking a lot of journal citations from one journal and putting them into EndNote in a batch. 

  1. Getting started: download the desktop version. Sign up for EndNote.
  2. Let's add some articles! Start by going to your favorite database. Usually, you'll select an article, then find the Export (sometimes "save") button. There's usually a prompt for EndNote, but if not, look for ".ris" format - that's the best one for EndNote 
  3. When you click "export," you'll be downloading an .ris file. Open EndNote and click the Import arrow, choose the file from your downloads, and click "import." EndNote will do the rest!

To easily export from Google Scholar:

Follow these steps to configure Google Scholar to send references to EndNote online:

  1. Go to the Google Scholar home page at
  2. Click "Settings" in the  upper right-hand corner.
  3. Under "Bibliography Manager" select the option "Show links to import citations into" and choose "RefMan" in the drop down box.
  4. Click on the "Save" button.

To add the ability to search UR catalog from within Endnote:

Go to this page, and follow the directions.