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Scholarly Communication for Librarians: Citation Managers

This guide contains information and resources shared at the Scholarly Communication Boot Camp sessions.

Introduction to Citation Managers

Have you ever wondered how eggs get put in cartons?  Well, there’s a machine for that.  Citation managers are the academic equivalent of that machine: they take all your delicate sources, clean them up into the correct style format and then put them in alphabetical order.  Beats doing it by hand, whether it’s eggs or citations!

More Information

For more information about Citation Managers, please visit the Citation Management Guide linked below.

Choosing a Citation Manager

RefWorks is ECU Libraries' generally-preferred reference manager because we subscribe, but RefWorks may not be the best choice for all circumstances. Use the charts below to determine which of these three applications would work best for your research situation.

NOTE: ECU Libraries does not have a campus license to EndNote. If you have a personal subscription to EndNote and need assistance contact Kerry Sewell at the Laupus Health Sciences Library.

Mendeley is BEST WHEN...  RefWorks is BEST WHEN... Zotero is BEST WHEN...
You want to collaborate with other readers/authors. You want to have your PDFs and citations synced across Mendeley's Web version, your desktop, and your iPad.   You need to manipulate a large set of citations and make transitions quickly and easily between styles. You search primarily in the library's subscription databases. You want a user-friendly tool that will work with citations from a variety of Web resources and databases. You want to work in groups and you want to sync your PDFs and citations from the Web version to your desktop.


Still not sure? Want to know about specific uses? See the table below:

What do you want to do?

 Citation Managers

Just generate a bibliography quickly for an assignment Zotero Zotero's Quick Copy function lets you drag and drop a citation from your Zotero library into the text field of any word processing document, Google doc, etc. to generate a bibliography ("works cited"). EasyBib or EndNote Basic would also be good choices.
Collect a wide variety of references (such as presentations, government documents, or technical reports), from the Web



All three will collect information from a variety of sources.  Zotero and RefWorks should automatically preselect the type of reference (such as government documents or technical reports).

Export a lot of citations directly from library databases RefWorks

RefWorks works best with ECU library databases and their Ref-Grab It feature will work for websites.

Work collaboratively with colleagues Zotero
Mendeley RefWorks

All three citation managers allow you to share citations.  However, Zotero and Mendeley offer advanced social media tools--especially via their individual profiles and groups.

Maintain access to your citations (i.e. beyond graduation, job change) Zotero
Mendeley RefWorks

Zotero and Mendeley are free for individuals.

ECU students can retain access to their RefWorks account through a RefWorks Alumni account, which remains available as long as the library has a subscription to RefWorks. Contact your liaison librarian about RefWorks Alumni accounts.

Organize a large number of PDF files that you already have saved Zotero
Although both Zotero and Mendeley will organize and save PDFs directly to your account, Zotero is better at extracting metadata from PDFs. 
Highlight and annotate PDF documents Mendeley Mendeley allows you to highlight, annotate and add sticky notes to PDF documents.
Insert citations and a bibliography within my document RefWorks

All three citation managers have this feature.  However, RefWorks' Write-N-Cite feature seems most flexible and easiest to use.

Remove duplicate citations RefWorks All three tools can eliminate duplicate cites.  However, RefWorks seems best able to identify and remove exact and near duplicates.
Use a tool that works on my mobile device

Mendeley Zotero

RefWorks uses a web-based version called RefMobile to work on mobile devices.

Mendeley has its own app, and it works with PaperShip.

Zotero works with 3rd-party apps ZotPad and PaperShip.