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Why use Reference Management Software?

Reference management software, also referred to as citation management software, is software that helps to manage your bibliographic resources by integrating with your word processing software to generate in-text citations, footnotes, and bibliographies.  It can store PDFs, PowerPoint slides and other materials with references, it can also share references or libraries with collaborators.  Notes can be kept on specific references, making it easier to remember what an article, book, or other reference material was about.  With some preparation it is easy to keep a well-organized system of individual and shared libraries that will help when writing literature reviews, conference papers and journal articles.

What software is available?

Many applications are available, here are three popular options:

  • zotero:  A free, open source tool that can be used in a web browser or downloaded as a software application
  • EndNote:  Available for purchase from the UW Bookstore
  • ProQuest:  Often available at the library

What software should I use?

What you choose is up to you, here are some things to consider:

  • Is your research team already using a tool?
  • Differences in GUI (graphical user interface) organization
  • Cost

Using software means I never have to edit my references and citations again…  RIGHT?

[label type=”warning”]Wrong![/label] Reference management software is great for quickly citing and generating reference lists and bibliographies while you write, but it isn’t perfect.  When creating a citation in a document, you won’t be able to cite specific page numbers for a quote.  Additionally, some of  references may automatically add in information that is not needed in the reference list or bibliography (such as a doi).  To clean up automatically generated references in a document, remove the citation “field codes” (look up in the help menu of your specific software program to find out how) and manually revise the citations and references.  When manually revising your references, refer to the style guides at the UW Libraries Citation Styles and Tools web-page.

Fast and dirty ZOTERO basics:

  • Find an article, book, conference paper, etc
  • If possible, download a digital copy of the item (such as a pdf of a chapter or the article through the UW library site)
  • Save the item in a folder you can use just for the literature that you are collecting
  • Open Zotero
  • Add item manually using the new item button “plus sign” (see pro tip for how to automate this process through adding a publication identifier number)
  • Select item type (e.g. report, journal article)
  • Fill in details, such as title, authors, publisher, date
  • Add the abstract
  • Add an attached pdf to your reference by right-clicking on the reference and selecting “add attachment”->”stored copy of file”
  • Once you read the item, keep a set of notes about the purpose of the article, your thoughts, and possible critiques by right-clicking on the reference and selecting “add note”

[label type=”info”]PRO TIP:[/label] Click on the “add item by identifier” button and copy and paste in the doi or ISBN number. Do not paste in the ISSN number. If you do you will end up with a lot of references about rodents and bacteria. Unless you are a biologist, these references are useless in your library.

[label type=”info”]PRO TIP:[/label] Keep things neat and tidy in Zotero through using folders to manage different types of topics. You can add a new folder through the File menu and selecting “New collection”. You can also add sub collections within folders.

[label type=”info”]PRO TIP:[/label] Keep a memo in a word document of the main points of each article and your thoughts and ideas about the article as you read. You can later organize this memo into themes to help you write a literature review. You can find examples of memos on the Research Support page.

For more help and information, visit UW Libraries Citation Management Help or the
UW’s Citation Management Software Guide.