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Referencing & Plagiarism: Referencing Tools

Referencing Management Tools

Reference Management Tools (RMT), also called reference management software, bibliographic management software, etc., are tools which help to automate the 4 basic elements of the process of reference management, which are: 

  • Collection
  • Organisation
  • Citation
  • Sharing

A typical RMT can import and generate references from library catalogues and databases, provide searchable folders to organise collected references, promotes collaboration by allowing references to be shared between registered users, offers plug-ins to Word, Google Sheets, etc., so in-text citations and reference lists can be added directly while writing, and allows synchronisation between web-based and downloaded versions, so users aren’t tied to a single device.

The University of Suffolk provides students and staff with free access to two major RMTs, RefWorks and Endnote, and the library also supports users of the opensource (and hence free) tool Zotero. Each of these provides the functionality described above. 

Many other RMTs exist and support and guidance for these is widely available online. Wikipedia provides the following table comparing functionality and pros and cons of popular tools here.

There is a wide range of criteria to apply when choosing which Referencing Management Tool (RMT) to use, and you will probably experiment with more than one before settling down to a final choice. Criteria will include the use you want to put it to – is it to speed up referencing your undergraduate essays, organise your research for your final year or master’s dissertation, or to collaborate on a research paper? Do you need to learn just how to use the basics, or can you afford a longer learning curve? What kind of support is available to you, and what kind of device are you most using? Do you study and write in multiple locations, on different devices? Will you need access to your research after you finish your course or is a RMT linked to your student account sufficient?

The most fundamental criteria are:

  • Cost
  • Complexity/ease of use
  • Platform/device
  • Advanced features
EndNote  EndNote Web RefWorks Zotero
Cost   Free to UoS staff/students (installed on library PCs; available to download)   Free to UoS staff/students Free to UoS staff/students  Free (open source)
Difficulty Moderate learning curve  Moderate learning curve Easy learning curve Moderate learning curve
Access  Desktop Cloud-based Cloud-based Desktop software (i.e., download); web-based add-on for major browsers
Speed Fast Slow Depends on network Fast
Customization High Low Medium High
Links to URLs   Yes No Yes Yes
Links to PDF/Full text   Yes No Yes Yes (Zotero’s free storage is limited to 300MB)
Add notes/tags function  Yes Yes Yes Yes
Word integration  MS Word, Pages, Word for Mac MS Word, Pages, Word for Mac MS Word, Word for Mac, Google Docs   MS Word, Word for Mac, Google Docs
Operating System (OS) Windows, Mac, iOS Windows, Mac, iOS Windows, Mac, ChromeOS Windows, Mac, iOS, Linux
Recommended users UG, PGT, PGR, staff  UG, PGT UG, PGT, PGR, staff  UG, PGT, PGR, staff