How to Select and Use Citation Management Tools: Intro to Citation Tools

This guide contains information on different tools that will make citing sources in your papers easier.

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This guide will provide information on citation management tools and citation generators.

Citation management tools allow you to build a collection of your references where you can include citation information, URL links, PDF files and notes. Within these libraries, you can group, organize and search for items, share items with others and back up your library online. Most importantly, however, citation management tools work within Word. Here, you point and click on items in your library as you need to cite them in the text of your paper and the citation management tool will automatically build and update your bibliography for you, saving you tons of time and formatting headaches. See below for a comparison of EndNote and Zotero.


Citation generators, often available as websites online, allow you to input your citation information and then create a one-time bibliography that you can copy and paste into your document. These are useful if you need to quickly (and more importantly, correctly) format a bibliography but aren't yet ready to make the learning commitment necessary to get started with a citation manager.

EndNote or Zotero?

A summary of key differences between EndNote and Zotero. EndNote advantages include flexibility in output styles, largest free storage, collects abstracts with citation, easily exports references from MS Word citation manager tool and excellent, fast and free tech support. EndNote disadvantages include higher learning curve, will not share PDF files online and will not convert from an in-text citation style to Chicago Footnote style. Advantages for Zotero include that it is easy to learn, shares PDf files online and will convert from an in-text citation style to Chicago Footnote style. Zotero is open-source software, so tech support is forum-based. Zotero disadvantages include limited flexibility with output styles, a minor bug in the citation tool that is easily bypassed (instructions are included on this website) and that Zotero does not collect abstracts.

Zotero and EndNote are both accessed via Web and desktop applications. Both allow attaching PDF files such as journal articles. As a browser add-on, Zotero is free to anyone but there are storage limits. EndNote is free to KU graduate students, faculty and staff. Undergraduates can access EndNote through the Virtual Lab. EndNote allows online sharing of citations only (not PDF files), although EndNote's traveling library can be used to share PDF files. Zotero allows online sharing although links shared may require password access. Both citation managers collect web page information and provide in-document automatic bibliography and enable import of previously stored PDF collections. EndNote provides five gigabytes of online storage, Zotero provides 300 megabytes but includes options for paid upgrade. EndNote offers over 5,000 citation styles that are easily edited, Zotero offers over 2,750 that are more difficult to edit.

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