• 2-minute read
  • 23rd November 2018

A Guide to Reference Management Software

Find referencing sources in your writing boring or difficult? Then let technology do the hard work for you! And to find out how this works, check out our guide to reference management software.

What Is Reference Management Software?

Reference management software provides a simple way to manage references in an academic paper, dissertation, or thesis. This works by creating a database of sources linked to your word processor. You can then use this to insert citations and create a reference list in your document.

Using reference management software offers several advantages, including:

  • It is quicker than citing sources manually, especially in long documents
  • You can be sure that your referencing is consistent throughout your work
  • You can switch between different referencing styles whenever required
  • Software can import information automatically from online databases
  • Users can share source databases with one another

Sound appealing? Read on to find out about some popular software packages.

Reference Management Software Packages

There are quite a few software packages to pick from for reference management. Some of the most popular include:

Software Package



The most well-known referencing software, EndNote works with all major referencing systems, source types, and word processors. There is a limited free version available online, but the full version is paid for.


If most of your sources are PDF files (e.g., ebooks or journal articles downloaded from a database), Mendeley is a great choice (and free).


Zotero is free and notable for its browser plugin, which automatically imports source details from websites.


As a web-based system, RefWorks is great if you need quick and simple access to your source database from multiple computers.


If you are using the LaTeX system, the BibTeX package offers a helpful way of managing references.


A software package designed for Mac computers.

The key is picking the package that suits your needs. If you’re not sure where to start, you may want to see whether your college offers free or discounted access to any of the above. Alternatively, you can try one of the free packages before deciding whether to upgrade to a paid version.

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