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Reference management software

This guide introduces reference management software and the options available to users of UCL Library Services.

Which software should I use?

Before choosing a reference manager to work with, it is a good idea to ask yourself a series of questions (see below). You should consider all of these questions first, before deciding on a particular reference management package. Once you have chosen your package, it is possible, however, to transfer your references to another package, by using import options of the preferred package. 

 

Do you want to work online or offline? 

  • Online: easy to access from any computer but you have to have an internet connection. 

  • Offline: can work from anywhere even without an internet connection, but you may have to purchase a licence. 

 

Is paying for use of a package an option for you? 

  • UCL has a subscription to EndNote Desktop for use on all UCL computers, and available for download to home computers by UCL staff or students.

  • Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust (GOSH) has a subscription to EndNote Desktop for use by GOSH staff. GOSH staff should contact GOSH IT to arrange for this software to be installed on a work computer, and should contact UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health Library for information about how to install the software on a personal computer.

  • Mendeley is free, with limited storage space, but you can upgrade to purchase more storage.

  • Zotero is free, with unlimited storage space for references, but you can purchase additional storage space (in the Cloud) to store PDFs and notes. 

 

Will the package always be free? 

  • EndNote Desktop is available to use by all UCL staff, students and GOSH staff, whilst they remain at those organisations.

  • EndNote Online, basic version, is free to use. (Please note that this version cannot be used on GOSH computers.)

  • EndNote Online, premium version, is free to use if you sign in through EndNote desktop on a UCL computer, or through a GOSH subscription on a personal computer.

  • Mendeley is free to use, and it is free to download the desktop app.

  • Zotero is free to use, and it is free to download the desktop app. 

 

Which operating system will you be using? 

  • All three packages work with both Windows and Apple Mac (MacOS).

  • EndNote does not work with Linux.

  • Zotero works with Windows 7 or later, MacOS 10/11 or later and Linux.

 

Which word-processor are you going to use? 

  • All three packages work with MS Word (including MS Word 365).

  • Only EndNote is compatible with Pages (for use on Apple operating systems), but Zotero, Mendeley and EndNote Online do not work with Pages. 

  • Mendeley works with Apache Open Office. 

  • Zotero is compatible with Google Docs and LibreOffice (similar to Open Office).

 

Do you want to collaborate with other people to build bibliographies and / or share libraries? 

  • You should consider which packages your collaborators are familiar with, or have access to. For example, if they are from a different institution, they may not have access to EndNote.

  • Mendeley allows you share references, PDFs and notes with up to 25 collaborators in Private groups. You can create up to five Private groups, which are invitation only.

  • 'Group Libraries' in Zotero, separate from your personal My Library, allow users to share collections and references. Different types of groups can be set up, allowing the full range of collaborative possibilities. 

  • You can share libraries using EndNote Online, with up to 50 collaborators. (Please note that this feature cannot be used on GOSH computers.)

  • If you share your library with another EndNote user(s), then the shared library is sync'd with yours, via EndNote Online. The other user(s) would need a separate account to maintain another 'personal' library. 

  • Generally, if a library (all references) are shared as opposed to a group /collection of references, then you can insert references to a word processed document, even if you do not own the library. Mendeley does allow you to insert references in its shared Private groups, even if you are not the owner of a shared group. 

  • Be aware, that by sharing a group /collection /library with full text attachments, you may be in breach of copyright or licensing restrictions. For further information, please see UCL Copyright Advice.

 

Which databases do you expect to use for searching? 

  • Look out for direct export options from bibliographic databases; can the package import .ris, .bib, or text files? 

  • Does the reference manager allow 'online searching' (i.e. searching bibliographic databases from within the package itself)?

 

Which reference style are you expected to use, or do you wish to use? 

  • Your academic department may require you use a particular style, and some journals use their own 'in-house' style. 

  • OSCOLA legal referencing styles (4th ed, basic and some variations) are available for EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero.

 

Can you create or edit reference styles? 

  • All packages allow you to create your own style, or adapt an existing style. In EndNote there is a built-in style editor. To edit citation styles in Mendeley and Zotero it is helpful to have some knowledge of citation style language (CSL), and styles must be edited in a CSL editor.

 

Does the software allow you to edit the data fields (those relating to elements of your references / citations)? 

  • All packages allow you to edit data fields.