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Citing information: Use a reference manager

Use a reference manager

Manually collecting the information you need to create correct references can be a lot of work. There are tools available, called reference managers, to make this easier. Examples of reference managers are RefWorks, EndNote, Zotero and Mendeley. You can export the bibliographical data you need to create refererences; title, author name(s) and publication year etc from online sources such as Google Scholar, Scopus and sEURch, into your reference manager.

Reference managers are very useful for two main reasons: they help you

  • Manage your literature
    By saving references in a reference manager, you keep track of the literature you've found. You can download the references automatically from databases and catalogues or add them manually. You can organize the titles, add keywords and other information and search through them. In some programs you can add PDF files to the references, so you have the literature near at hand as well.
  • Create and style in-text citations (or footnotes), reference lists and bibliographies
    Reference managers help you to create and style in-text citations (or footnotes) as you write, and to generate lists of references.
    The rules of the various styles; APA, Chicago. Harvard, etc are defined in the reference management software as import filters and output styles. This allows you to add references to your database that match style requirements and to generate reference lists (or bibliogrpahies) in a preferred citation style. The final results are generally more consistent than when creating the citations manually. When there is a need to change the style (to comply with a publisher's style requirements), the reference manager allows you to do this easily. A manual conversion would require a considerable time investment.

Choosing a reference manager depends on personal preferences and needs, for example:

  • are you willing to pay for the software?
  • do you have a preferred browser?
  • do you use Microsoft Word or another program when you write?
  • do you have installation rights for your computer?
  • do you already have a lot of pdf-files of articles?
  • do you want to collaborate with other students?

Wikipedia offers an extensive overview of reference manager software.

The Erasmus University Rotterdam has a licence for the online reference manager New RefWorks (also called ProQuest RefWorks) - students and researchers of the EUR can use RefWorks for free. The examples in the modules in the Citing Information LibGuide are based on New RefWorks.