Reference Management: Level 1

Level 1: “getting started / Level 2: “make it real (and useful)” / Level 3: “masterclass”

This “thing” is relevant to the following theme:

(pick from:
Research 2.0  / Health 2.0  / Professional Issues / Mobile Technologies / Presentation 2.0  / Mashups  / Social Networking  / Keeping yourself ontrack when you’re online  /)

“getting started”


Reference management software (RMS), citation management software or personal bibliographic management software is software for scholars and authors to use for recording and utilising bibliographic citations (references). Once a citation has been recorded, it can be used time and again in generating bibliographies, such as lists of references in scholarly books, articles and essays. The development of reference management packages has been driven by the rapid expansion of scientific literature.

These software packages normally consist of a database in which full bibliographic references can be entered, plus a system for generating selective lists of articles in the different formats required by publishers and scholarly journals. Modern reference management packages can usually be integrated with word processors so that a reference list in the appropriate format is produced automatically as an article is written, reducing the risk that a cited source is not included in the reference list. They will also have a facility for importing the details of publications from bibliographic databases. (From Wikipedia).

Most of RMS has a desktop application that enables the online synchronization of the contents, and all of them allow to share the database content.


RMS can be used by and individual for personal or professional reasons, but most relevant to this course:

  • Systematic organization of the literature
  •  Easy search and retrieval information
  •  Reliability of metadata from online downloads
  • Use of multiple standard citation styles
  • Interaction and sharing of content with other colleagues
  • Scholarly communication support
  • Time saving

 Why not?

  • Manual Management of index cards in shoe boxes, as a file, or sequential lists of references in a word processing are laborious, slow and unreliable methods.
  • Using an RMS for research, for example, the doctoral dissertation, is a must to avoid the PhD student some headaches and a great waste of time.


In this page “Comparison of reference management software“, from Wikipedia, you can see a quite complete and updated study of different RMS according to: web-based/centrally-hosted website; OS software; export/import file formats; citation styles; reference list file formats; word processor integration; database connectivity; password protection and network versions.

From these tables we have selected the two RMS, Mendeley and Zotero, which meet the following criteria:

  • Free access web-based
  • Operating system: Windows, Mac OS X and others
  • Citation styles: APA, Vancouver and others
  • Word processor integration: Microsoft Word and others
  • Database connectivity: PubMed and others
  • Desktop application

Creating a web-based bibliographic database in both RMS takes just three steps:

  • Create an account
  • Profile settings
  • Download the desktop

Once you have created your database here are two important things to know:

  • To access either of the two programs: you will need to sign into the website each time you want to manage information with your login and password (in Mendeley you can sign in with Facebook).
  • To view your public group: you must copy the URL

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