What is a citation manager and why should I use one?

A citation manager is a software tool that helps you keep track of and cite sources as you go through the research process. They are especially useful when writing long papers that require the use of many sources, like dissertations, capstone papers, etc. During the research process, it can be hard to keep track of all the sources you use or think you will use as you write your paper...citation managers can help with that!

Most citations managers allow you to:

  1. Collect lists of articles, books, webpages, etc. for use in research.
  2. Format and create bibliographies using a particular citation style
  3. Store the source materials.
  4. Insert in-text citations and bibliography entries while writing in Microsoft Word.

Deciding which citation manager is best

There are many citation managers that you can choose from, all with particular pros and cons. This guide will focus on three citation managers: Endnote, Zotero, and Mendeley.

Citation Manager

Cost Storage Weaknesses Cite While You Write? Does extract metadata and pull in full text?
Endnote Web


Up to 50,000 references Doesn't have as many citation options as other citation managers. Yes (Word and Open Office) Yes
Zotero Free

300 MB Free Online OR unlimited with Zotero Desktop

Works best in your browser instead of in the cloud which makes it difficult to access on multiple devices or on a public computer. Yes (Word and OpenOffice) Yes
Mendeley  Free 2GB Free Online OR unlimited with Mendeley Desktop Has some difficultly downloading citations and metadata from library databases. Requires the user to manually download PDFs and attach them to citations. Yes (Word and OpenOffice) Yes (sometimes has problems)


Comparison Charts

Other than the basic chart on this page, there are many comparison charts on the internet. NOTE that many comparison charts review Endnote, NOT Endnote Basic. Here are some helpful places to start: