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Why use a reference management software package? 

Reference management software packages are specifically designed to help you collect and organise your citations easily as you gather material and do your research.

The package breaks down citations into “fields” or component parts e.g., author, title, year, chapter, page numbers. The package will then apply “styles” to control how fields are presented in the final document. These styles are pre-set but in certain packages can be modified and tweaked, for example EndNote has some customised Cambridge outputs available (you may need to be a little

tech-savvy for this, or attend a UIS advanced training course). The package then produces a uniform output for you with minimum effort! 

Some packages will help organise your collection of PDFs into a searchable library, or give you the option to annotate and highlight imported PDFs.

Some also provide a ‘social’ option for sharing material/engaging with colleagues on a group project; or for meeting other researchers with common interests.

Resource discovery or ‘brainstorming’ is often available as a feature, similar to the Amazon ‘if you read this… you might like…’

The best approach to finding a software package is to play around with the various options available. Each package has its own strengths and weaknesses. We are focusing on the following 3 packages as they are supported by the University Information Service (UIS) in terms of training courses and technical support: 

Zotero (Independent not tied to a publisher)

Mendeley (Elsevier)

EndNote & EndNote Basic (Thomson Reuters)

How to choose a reference management software package Think about where and how you want the package to work for you. The comparison table below is a good starting point. Do you need to:



…work from multiple computers


Zotero saves your citation library to

or locations?


your local computer, but syncs with

EndNote Basic

multiple computers so you can work from any location. Mendeley is a program that lives on your local computer, but syncs with a web account. EndNote Basic is entirely web-based and can be accessed from any computer with internet access, and can sync with EndNote desktop.

…work without an Internet


Zotero, Mendeley and EndNote store



your citation libraries locally on your




Zotero allows you to easily save

…save web pages and import citation information from

snapshots of web pages and


annotate them within your citation library. It is a great tool for scraping citation information from web-based publications and some commercial and social networking sites.

…work on a group project or


Zotero allows you to share your

share citations with others?


citations through shared folders --

EndNote Basic

you can give individuals or groups permissions to add and edit the citations in the shared folder. Mendeley allows you to share citations and documents with a group of up to 2 other users, or create a public reading list that is open to all. EndNote Basic allows you to create and share groups with other users.

Available training for software packages LibGuides Take a look at the excellent advice provided on the following LibGuides (produced by the English Faculty Library, and Medical Library): 

Mendeley – Reference Management Software:

Zotero – Reference Management Software:

Instructor-led courses You can also attend one of the many excellent instructor-led courses provided by the University Information Service (UIS), all of which have dates available this academic year: 

EndNote training schedule:

Advanced EndNote training (customising output styles):

Mendeley training schedule:

Zotero training schedule:

Contact the UIS helpdesk with specific queries regarding software issues and prices, also (worst case scenario) with the recovery of your files or citation libraries:

Self-teach Don’t forget that all packages provide video or online tutorials; these can be used in conjunction with the LibGuides above, or as a refresher if you’ve attended an instructor-led course. EndNote & EndNote Basic: Mendeley: Zotero:

Other reference management software packages available: There are plenty of packages available that aren’t directly supported by the UIS. The following are popular examples: Papers (Springer) - Qiqqa (Independent not tied to a publisher) - Readcube (Wiley) -

Useful tips Ask your peers which reference packages they are using:

group work or shared libraries. The referencing style output is more likely to conform to local standards (seek advice from your supervisor or faculty member in regards to style) Once you’ve found a package and style that you’re happy with, show a sample of your references to your supervisor for approval before proceeding with a large amount of work. You can of course use a combination of packages for your research, utilising the variety of special features that each one offers, but make sure that you only pick one for the final output of your document to ensure uniformity.

Referencing advice If you have chosen your package, but are unclear of how to reference properly, or how to check that your citations are being saved in your preferred format, use the resources that we have available to you online and in print within the University:  is an essential and easy to use online portal offering advice on how to reference properly: books, journals, webpages, legal documents, twitter, government publications etc.

“Cite them right” by Richard Pears and Graham Shields, is also available as a printed book within the University, find it on iDiscover.

"Referencing & understanding plagiarism" by Kate Williams and Jude Carroll to borrow at African Studies Library: (303.832.2)

“A manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations: Chicago style for students and researchers” by Kate L. Turabian; revised by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, and University of Chicago Press editorial staff. Available to borrow at African Studies Library: (303.832.2)

Research data management Make sure that you know where your citations, documents and PDF files are being saved! 1) If they’re on the net/cloud consider: - Safety and data protection issues surrounding sensitive or personal information – there are rules where this sort of data can be stored, especially concerning servers that aren’t secure or are outside of the EU. Please see the Information Commissioner’s Office advice on cloud computing: Please see the University’s advice on cloud computing: 2) If they’re on a PC consider: - Are they being stored in the same place each time, or are they being saved to several different places by different programmes? (My Documents, Downloads, etc.) Try to set preferences if possible, or at least make a note of each programme’s preferences, to minimise the loss of any references. - Make sure that you back-up and save recent versions of your documents and citations on a memory stick independent to your laptop or PC, in case of damage to or loss of your hardware.

If using a sync system to back up your citations to a cloud and your PC, please consider: 1) Maintenance of US servers tends to be timed for the middle of the night US time, so downtime can often occur during the day in the UK and Europe, making it difficult to view or save your citations reliably. 2) Make sure that you know which version of your citation library and documents you are saving before syncing, don’t let an older version overwrite a newer one! 3) Be cautious of using reference packages in conjunction with DropBox or other cloud services that aren’t linked directly to that particular reference package; often file corruption can occur and citations can be lost. This can happen gradually over a period of time, so you may be unaware of any problems until the crucial moment (printing out your final document!)

Further advice on data management For more information on effective data management including creating, organising, sharing and protecting your data, visit:

Managing your references  

A guide to managing your references, including software, training, resources, and data management advice - African Studies Library, Cambridg...

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