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Life Sciences

A guide serving Life Sciences, Biology, Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics

Citation Manager Introduction

Citation managers are desktop and web-based applications designed to organize and keep track of the articles, books, and web pages you read and use for research. As you search journal databases you can export citations directly into your chosen citation manager. Several different managers also allow you to directly cite into Word as you type, and will automatically import your bibliography when you are done writing. They will save you a ton of time and frustration! 

Research is often collaborative, requiring a lot of folks working together to accomplish a task. Libraries within your citation manager can be shared and will automatically sync as you upload more citations or make changes, ensuring that everyone on your team has the most up-to-date library.

The most frequently used and taught citation managers can be found in the box below. At the University of Maryland, we are happy to help you with Zotero, EndNote, and Mendeley.

The Research Commons within the University Libraries offers workshops and individual consultations on how to use citation managers. Check the website or contact me if you would like more information or need help with a citation manager!

Photo of citation manuals

Given the large variety of citation managers out there, which manager is right for you? There are a couple of factors you may want to consider before choosing a citation manager.

  • Are you working in a team? If collaboration is important, some citation managers offer better sharing options than others. Is your team already working in a platform they are comfortable with? It might be best, then, to use that manager.


  • Cost is a big concern for some students and researchers, and not all citation managers are free. Some have free features but aren't fully accessible without paying a fee. Others you have to pay for from the start. If you are uncertain if the manager you are looking for is free, be sure to contact your librarian and they can point you in the right direction.


  • Access is another consideration in choosing a citation manager. Several managers offer cloud storage of your library that auto sync with a desktop version. This allows you to be collaborative while also giving you the freedom to cite even when you are offline. But be cautious; several platforms may give you free, web-based services but charge for the desktop version.

Zotero is another free citation manager that also allows you to cite your sources as you write in a word processor. Using Zotero, you can:

  • Add a Zotero extension to your web browser to capture citations as you browse the web.
  • Manage your citations online.
  • Download a free Zotero stand-alone desktop version.
  • Cite as you write, using the Zotero plug-in for Word.

Once you've installed the web browser extensions, look for the icons pictured below to site the articles and pages you read:

A close up of the Zotero extension in Firefox Web

EndNote Online is a free, cloud-based citation manager. EndNote Online allows you to:

  • Manage your libraries from anywhere.
  • Install an add-on word processor that allows you to cite while you write.
  • Allows you to group publications by project/theme.
  • The largest capacity manager, so perfect for BIG projects.

Mendeley is the free citation project offered by Elsevier. There are helpful features including:

  • Both cloud and standalone/downloadable versions.
  • Word add-on for quick citation and bibliography.
  • Easy citation export from multiple databases.
  • Create groups where researchers can collect and organize citations together.

Our Library System has even more information on our Research Guide dedicated to citation managers. Looking for more information? Check it out!