All scientists know that to be published, they must have new data. Therefore, when a researcher designs experiments and writes manuscripts, the information and the use of previous studies are essential. In fact, a scientist must know what is known before designing an experiment. To help manage all the articles and research studies that scientists analyze on a daily basis, there are appointment managers who help organize the documents. For this, the use of Reference Management Software is essential.

Among the various appointment management tools such as Mendeley, Zotero, EndNote and RefWorks, which tool will be the most suitable for you? Originally, the reference managers helped researchers to correctly format their citations. These tools have come a long way since then. However, with all the new options and features, deciding which dating tool works best requires background work and knowledge. Among the various options available to the scientist, few common appointment managers are RefWorks, Zotero, Mendeley, and EndNote.

Reference management software features

Reference management software provides the following features:

  • Support for a wide range of dating styles (eg APA, MLA, etc.)
  • Automated creation of bibliographic entries or complete bibliography.
  • Online dating creation
  • Add annotations, notes, to documents
  • Importing documents or references from external sources
  • Extracting citation data (for example, author, publication name, etc.) from imported documents
  • Synchronize data in shared or stored documents
  • Create a research profile, add publications to a scientific database through software
  • Style check and accidental plagiarism

Standardized bibliographic data formats

BibTeX and RIS are the two most established file formats for storing bibliographic data, and one or both formats are compatible with all reference managers. Exporting data in a standardized format is important because it allows users to back up their reference lists independently of the reference management software, switch from one reference manager to another, or use multiple reference managers in parallel. BibTeX has been around since the mid-1980s and was designed to be used in combination with the LaTeX typesetting system. The format is now widely supported by reference administrators working with Microsoft Word and other authoring tools, and by online bibliographic databases such as Google Scholar.

RIS (Research Information Systems) is a standardized label format originally invented by Research Information Systems (now part of Thomson Reuters). The format is widely compatible and has been adapted over time to include a field for digital object identifiers (DOI). Endnote XML and Citeproc JSON are newer formats that are not as compatible yet. BibTeX and RIS are plain text formats. XML and, more recently, JSON have evolved to standard Web data exchange formats, and are easier to process automatically. Therefore, over time they can become the predominant formats for the exchange of bibliographic information.

APA style

Some examples of Reference Management Software


RefWorks is an exceptional referral management software program. Although it comes at a price, many colleges and universities have RefWorks subscriptions, which means you may already have it available through your school. RefWorks is great because it allows users to generate and format bibliographies and manuscripts in hundreds of output styles, including some of the most common: APA, MLA, Chicago, Vancouver, and Turabian. It also enables users to manage more than just bibliographic data, making it excellent for academics and researchers alike.


Zotero is free and open source, which means you don't have to pay for it and its design is publicly accessible. It is an excellent choice as a reference administrator, especially for students, because it works as a web service and an offline service on your personal device (laptop, iPad, cell phone, etc.). Zotero not only stores and formats your bibliographic information, but also allows you to organize, label and search this information. Automatically and seamlessly extracts information from books, magazine articles and other online sources, making the entire process of creating a reference list easy.


EndNote is great if you are collaborating on a research paper. It allows sharing with up to 14 colleagues anywhere in the world, making it definitely the best option for collaborations. One of the highlights of this referral manager is that it includes referral types like interviews, podcasts, conference papers, and press releases. It also allows you to add appointments to Microsoft PowerPoint slides, which is especially great if you're creating a presentation with a group. EndNote has a large catalog of formatting options with over 6,000 reference styles, so regardless of your discipline, you will surely find one that suits your needs.


If you are in a technical or scientific field, Mendeley is an excellent choice for you. This reference management software allows users to generate citations and bibliographies in Microsoft Word, LibreOffice and LaTeX. As with EndNote, it is ideal for collaborative work, allowing you to connect with colleagues and share your documents, notes, and annotations. It can be used on your computer via the web or your iPhone or iPad, making your work easier wherever you go.


Citationsy is a great option because it is very adaptable. You can access it as a page within your browser or download it as a Chrome extension or mobile app, which means you can access your library from any device with an internet connection. As with other referral managers, it automatically extracts the appointment details so you don't have to write them yourself. You can even use your mobile app to quote your books by scanning their barcodes.


Papers is commercial reference management software, now part of the Springer Science + Business media. Initially, Papers was only available for Mac, but now there are also versions for iPad and PC. Its main strength is its excellent handling of PDF documents (including metadata extraction) and its polished user interface, while the collaboration features are less developed than in some of the other products. Papers uses the citation style language and provides a word processor plugin.


JabRef is an open source bibliographic reference manager popular with LaTeX users. It runs in Java and is therefore compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac. The native file format is BibTeX, which is the standard bibliography format for LaTeX. The strength of JabRef is that references can be directly formatted in LaTeX, thus providing access and control over a wide range of citation styles. JabRef provides direct search and downloads for PubMed and IEEEXplore. There are plugins for word processing programs and also other Java-based plugins, which extend the general functionality.


CiteULike is a free online referral manager and social bookmarking tool. References are mainly entered through a bookmarklet that captures bibliographic content on web pages. New entries are public by default and are added to the common library, but entries can also be made private. Users can assign tags to posts that make it easier to organize and search for content. References can be exported in BibTeX and RIS formats. The characteristics of social networks are the strength of CiteULike. Users can create profiles, connect with other researchers, and create and join groups where they can collaborate on library content.


Reference management software helps students, research-oriented professionals, and anyone else obtain material from others by quoting accurately and efficiently. These tools can be single-use, where users submit information and receive a full quote, or they can act as a secure source repository for long-term projects. Reference management software can serve more than just academic purposes.

Business presentations or reports can benefit from a suitable appointment. The tool can connect large teams across cloud servers, providing businesses with full access to trusted items and resources. Often, reference management tools can be integrated with file storage and document creation or sharing tools, or with part of an Internet browser. This allows users to save resources as they are at the moment rather than having difficulty locating them later. Common features of reference management software include advanced search, reference libraries, and version history.

Bibliographic References

Fenner, M., 2010. Reference manager overview. Gobbledygook. Available at:

Fenner, M.H., 2010. Reference management meets Web 2.0. Cell Ther Transplant. doi:10.3205/ctt-2010-en-000087.01.

Gilmour, R. & Cobus-Kuo, L., 2011. Reference Management Software: a Comparative Analysis of Four Products. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000204.

Specht, C.G., 2010. Opinion: Mutations of citations. The Scientist. Available at:

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Reference Management Software

Reference Management Software


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