What is a citation manager?
Citation managers (sometimes called reference managers) are tools that allow you to:
- Import citations from databases and Find It! as you research
- Save and organize citations
- Attach pdfs of articles and chapters, when available
- Create bibliographies in a variety of formats
- Insert footnotes and parenthetical citations as you write
- Collaborate with others using shared folders
Which tool is right for me?
There are many factors involved in choosing a citation manager. Here are some questions to consider:
- What are your colleagues, peers, labmates, advisors using?
- Is there a preferred or dominant citation manager in your field of study?
- Are you always working where there is reliable Internet access, or do you need a manager that you can sometimes access off-line?
Binghamton University Libraries provide support for the following citation managers:
- Zotero is a free, open-source citation manager that can be used online or through the desktop program. Zotero has a robust user community and tends to be more popular in the humanities and social sciences.
- Mendeley is a free, web-based citation manager that can be used online or through the desktop program. Mendeley tends to be more popular in the sciences.
- EndNote Basic is a free, simplified version of EndNote that is only available online.
For a more detailed comparison of these tools, see the table below.
Detailed Comparison of Tools
|Tech Requirements & Storage|
|Cost||Free; option to pay for additional cloud storage||Free; option to pay for additional cloud storage or additional private groups||Free|
|Online access (web platform)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Offline access (desktop program)||Yes||Yes||No|
|Mobile app||3rd party iOS and Android apps||iOS app and Android apps||No|
|Cloud storage||300MB cloud storage||2GB cloud storage||2GB cloud storage|
|Maximum number of records||Unlimited records||Unlimited records||50,000 records|
|Attachment limits||No limit on attachments per citation; no limit on file size||No limit on attachments per citation; Attachment file size limited to 250MB||No limit on attachments per citation; no limit on file size|
|Import & Export|
|Transfer data between citation managers||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Direct export from databases||Yes, via web translators||Yes, via web importer||Yes, via Capture Reference importer|
|Direct search of databases||No||Can search the Mendeley database (papers in the libraries of other users)||Limited|
|Retrieve citation information from PDF||Yes (uses DOI or other extracted information from PDF; matches in Google Scholar)||Yes (PDF text analyzed for information, DOI, Arxiv, PubMed, Crossref ids, and Mendeley database all used to check citations||No|
|Creates formatted bibliographies and in-text citations in Google Docs||Yes||No||No|
|Creates formatted bibliographies and in-text citations in a word processor||Yes||Yes
|Edit or create citation styles||Yes (via Citation Style Editor)||Yes (via Mendeley CSL)||No|
|Number of reference types||38 pre-defined||20 pre-defined||51 pre-defined|
|Organize & Edit|
|Global find/replace editing||No||No||Yes|
|Auto-complete data entry||Yes for author(s), journal title, tags||Yes for journal title, tags, keywords||No|
|Journal abbreviation lists||Version 4.0 and later can automatically abbreviate journal titles in Index Medicus/MEDLINE format||Abbreviations based on citation style selected; can be edited||None|
|Sort by||Any field||Any field||Author, title, year, and more|
|Field search||Yes (by any field)||Yes (by author, title, publication names, year, notes)||No (searches entire record only)|
|Full-text PDF search||Yes||Yes||No|
|Annotate PDFs||No, but will sync PDFs annotated with 3rd party software||Yes||No|
|Add notes to references||Yes (notes can stand alone or be attached to references)||Yes (via “notes” tab in desktop version)||Yes (in “notes” field)|
|Collaboration||Create public and private groups; automatic synchronization of collections among multiple computers||Create public and private groups; automatic synchronization of collections among multiple computers; one private group of 3 members free (costs for private groups)||
Share with other EndNote users (cannot share file attachments); create shared groups that all users can edit
|Read-only sharing||Yes (via member settings within groups)||Yes (by “follow” option through web interface)||Yes (in sharing options)|
Adapted from the University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries' comparison chart.