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Referencing: Reference management software


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Benefits of referencing software

The benefits of using this type of software are:

  • Saves time and stores your references on the go

  • you can import references with a click from databases, websites or the library catalogue

  • it saves you time, especially when you have a number of assignments to do. 

Organising your References

Keeping track of your sources can be difficult, especially if you're working on a big piece of work that relies on a lot of references. 

Reference management software is really useful to organise your sources: you can group and tag sources, keep notes, and store PDFs online for easy access. You can even automatically cite your references as you write up your work. 

It allows you to:

  • search easily for a particular reference to which you need to refer using details such as ISBN or title

  • make and save your own notes about the sources you add

  • print or save a list of references

  • insert citations into your document and automatically produce a reference list / bibliography in whatever style you require.

Reference management applications

Zotero is a free, open source reference manager that offers flexibility due to the fact it can cite in MS Word, Word for Mac, LibreOffice, and Google Docs.

Zotero is a good general reference manager that offers a range of features for collecting, organsing, and citing. If you're looking for something you can use when you leave the University and which is a free open source tool rather than being owned by a major publisher, then Zotero is a good option. It also works well with the OSCOLA referencing style, so if you use that it can often be the best reference manager to use.

Key points:

  • Free and open source so you can use beyond your time at the university
  • Has a browser extension for collecting references from web pages or web pages themselves
  • Can cite in MS Word, MS Word for Mac, Google Docs, and LibreOffice
  • It does have a built-in PDF annotation/editing

Remember, you can export your references out of one reference management application and into another, if you change your mind, the features change, or you leave the University.

If you are an undergraduate, ZoteroBib is a great place to start to create a quick and easy bibliography for free, without the need to install any software or create an account. 

You may find ZoteroBib useful if you are working on one-off essays rather than a sustained research project.

Just like Zotero, Zotero Bib provides access to over 9000 referencing styles for your bibliography.

ZoteroBib Home

Add items to your bibliography using the ZoteroBib search box:

  • find items online and paste the URL
  • paste or type in an ISBN, DOI, PubMed ID, or arXiv ID
  • search by title.

Zotero Bib Search

ZoteroBib will find bibliographic information and add the item to your bibliography: 

  • if ZoteroBib does not find what you are looking for or the data is incomplete, enter the data with the manual editor
  • your bibliography will be stored automatically in your local browser
  • if you want to load your bibliography onto another device, create a "link to this version"
  • you can share your bibliography with others, though a regular Zotero account provides you with more tools for collaboration.

Mendeley is a free reference manager where you can store, organise, highlight and annotate all your PDFs and references. There is a Word add-in to insert citations and references in documents. It is also an academic social network where you can create a profile and share the literature you are reading with your research group or co-authors. Reference Manager will work on Windows, Mac and Linux, but is not currently available to download on tablets.

Mendeley Reference Manager is being developed to replace Mendeley Desktop. If you are already using Desktop you can automatically download your existing references into Reference Manager by logging in with your existing account details.

In addition to Library support offered for Mendeley there is lots of guidance and support available from the official support site:

Exceptions to note

These are the two handouts we give out at the Zotero workshops to help you to download and install Zotero on your own computers/laptops and to help you to add your chosen referencing style to any computer on which you use Zotero.

Exceptions to note with some references:

Both Zotero and Mendeley do not provide referencing templates for some sources:

  • academic posters
  • computer and digital resources
  • TV programmes
  • images and images generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) sites
  • text generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) sites

You will need to enter the information on a blank template on these referencing platforms. Copy the referencing information from the London Met Harvard Referencing quick guide; it includes referencing AI. Consult the London Met Harvard Referencing full guide for all material types except AI.