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Reference Management Tools

What are Reference Management Tools?

Books coming out of computer

Reference management or citation management software allows a user to organize citations for various kinds of materials, such as books, articles, government reports, websites, and to categorize them based on groupings defined by the user.

Typically, citation management software will work directly with library databases to export content into the software.  Once the citations are loaded into the software, the user can make notations or edit the citation. 

Some citation management software allows you to input citations into your work and formats the citations automatically based on which citation style you have chosen. Most will also allow you to make global style changes with a click of a button, e.g. you could format your citations in MLA style and then have the software convert them to APA style.

Citation management software are not perfect so it is important to learn about different citation styles. Purdue Owl is a good source of information on the main citation styles including APA, MLA and Chicago Manual of Style.

PFW students, staff, and faculty have access to several citation management tools.

  • EndNote, produced by Clarivate, comes in both desktop and web-based versions that will sync with one another.
  • Zotero , a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. It resides in the web browser and works as a plug-in with the FireFox browser.
  • Mendeley, a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research.

This comparison chart describes different citation management software:


EndNote for the desktop is available on all campus computers and for download to personal machines from the campus software portal.  EndnoteBasic on the web is a scaled-down option that is free to the general public, making it a great tool when working with collaborators from outside the university. EndnoteBasic on the web does not require an PFW login.

For most users, the web version will work as well if not better than the desktop but does require you to download a plug-in for Word and a constant reliable internet connection.  The desktop does not require internet access and allows for customization of non-standard citation styles, but virtually all other features are mirrored in the web editions.  The Web and the desktop will sync with one another.  If you work on more than one computer, having a web account to sync the desktop versions is critical.

  1. To download Endnote X9, start with GoPFW and then find the "Software Downloads" box and select "Get Software".Software Downloads box on GoPFW with the Get Software link circled in red
  2. You will be prompted to login for a second time using your Purdue Fort Wayne username and password.
  3. Endnote is towards the bottom of the software list. 


Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser.

Zotero collects all your research in a single, searchable interface. You can add PDFs, images, audio and video files, snapshots of web pages, etc.
Word processor plugins help to automatically generate bibliographies. 


Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network. Make your own fully-searchable library in seconds, cite as you write, and read and annotate your PDFs on any device.

Mendeley is built to work on desktop, web and your iOS device, allowing you to sync across devices and access your library wherever you are.