Reference management software

What is reference management software?

Reference management software is software that enables scholars, researchers, and academics of all types to capture and use citations when creating their bibliography. These programs allow you to import citations from various databases and websites, create and organize bibliographies, and format article citations according to your needs. You can also save and organize PDFs, screenshots, graphics, images and other files for your research.

Reference management software is most useful for users who are undertaking:

  • written assignments;
  • independent research;
  • systematic reviews.

Why should I use a reference management software?

  1. Saves you (lots of) time: It is an efficient way of keeping track of your references, and avoids having to type out each reference manually (and making mistakes while doing so).
  2. Ensures consistent referencing: referencing styles can output references consistently and accurately, lowering your error chances once more.
  3. Helps you to keep track of what you have read, and to find it again even a year later 😛

Which software are out there?

There are a variety of reference management packages you can use, and most of them are free! We offer a small comparison of the three most-used software available online: EndNote, Mendeley, and Zotero. Please note that there are many more out there, which gives you plenty of space for experimenting.

 EndNote DesktopMendeleyZotero
CostFree for Leiden University staff and students (normally € 278,30 €)Free (2 GB)Free (300 MB), Open Source
How does it work?Web app (free)Web appWeb app; plugin (Firefox, Safari, Chrome)
CompatibilityWindows, MacWindows, Mac, LinuxWindows, Mac, Linux
Search in databasesWeb onlyWeb onlyYes, but limited in format (only ISBN, Doi, or PubMed-ID)
Mobile appiOS app onlyApp for iOS and AndroidMobile version of; third-party apps
Can datasets be linked?YesNoYes
Export to BibTeXYesYesYes
Available citations styles+5000+9500+9000
Word processor integrationYesYesYes

You can find a comparison of even more reference manager software here

Further resources

Leiden University page on reference manager software use

Leiden University tutorial on reference managers 

Extra comparison table of Comparison of EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero

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