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Citation Management and Generation

Looking to corral your references all in one place, then this guide is for you!

Citation Management and Generation

To Begin With...

In the world of citations, people are assisted by two separate but equally important types of software: citation generators, or programs that take the information from your source and generate a citation, and citation managers which will collect and manage all of your references and resources. This guide provides an overview of different citation managers and generators.

This guide is divided into a number of sections:

  • Understanding Citations provides you with a basic overview of citations and the differences between Citation Managers and Generators. This will give you the basics on what citations are, why we have them, what components they contain, and what you will need to know to ensure your citations are correct.
  • Dedicated pages for each of the three main alternatives, including links and helpful videos for getting started with them. There are also dedicated pages for options for Health Sciences and Nursing students.
  • Finally, a page for Citation Generators. Many students do not need a full Citation Manager, they simply need a way to accurately format a citation from provided information. This is the page for you!

New to citations, or want to learn more? Proceed to Understanding Citations. Also, make sure to view our comprehensive overview of citations. 

Both citation managers and citation generators come with one GIANT caveat: NEVER TRUST AN AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED CITATION. Citations created by either Managers or Generators are only as good as the data fed into them; for that, you will always need to double check both the information in the entry to the Manager or Generator (meaning the known the parts of book, article, website, etc.), AND the parts of a citation.

It is for this reason that this guide exists: to educate you on the tools available AND how to use them expertly!

Citation Management Software Compared

The three main and free citation mangers we recommend are EndNote, Zotero, and Mendeley. Each have their pros and cons. The chart below, adapted from one from Michigan State University, provides the main breakdown for the big points most will consider when deciding. If you want more information, check out this guide from the University of Wisconsin libraries.

  EndNote Zotero Mendeley
Description You can set up preferences to search within specific databases and collect citations through a personalized interface, with hundreds of citation styles available. Zotero is a free software that you can download and use on Firefox, with plugins for Chrome and Safari. It saves citations and connections to online media, and takes screenshots of your internet research. Mendeley is a free software that you can download to your computer or use in-browser. It takes all of your PDF article files and organizes them. It allows for tagging, and has a growing community of scholars.
Learning Curve Takes longer to learn, training recommended. Quick to learn, especially with training. Quick to learn, especially with training.
Considerations Since EndNote is desktop-based, syncing between devices can be challenging, but continues to improve. Zotero is used with your personal browser or home computer – to use it on multiple devices you have to carry your library settings on an external device or sync via Firefox, which is not secure on a public computer. Mendeley has some difficulty downloading citations and PDF files from library databases. Older PDF files that do not have proper metadata will not give proper citation information to Mendeley.
Storage Space

EndNote Desktop: your computer's storage capacity.

EndNote Web: 2 GB free, unlimited with purchase of EndNote Desktop.

Zotero Desktop: your computer's storage capacity.

Zotero Online: 300 MB free, additional space for a fee.

Mendeley Desktop: your computer's storage capacity.

Mendeley Online: 2 GB free.