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Reference management

Reference management

Managing what you find can be difficult, especially if you're working on a big piece of work that relies on a lot of references. Reference management software lets you keep track of what you've found: you can group and organise your references, keep notes, and store pdfs online for easy access. You can even automatically cite your references as you write up your work. 

How it works & what it does

Bibliographic data from your search results is passed to the reference manager, either by downloading it to your computer and then uploading it to the program, or by a 'direct' transfer within your browser.

Once you've collected some references, you can use the program to manage and organise what you've found, attach PDFs, and share references with colleagues.

You can also cite the references in your chosen citation style, either to copy and paste, or by directly connecting to the reference management program from a word processing application.

Why would you use reference management software?

The important thing is to keep track of what you're reading, so that you can accurately cite references in your work (and don't have to spend hours hunting down the right information!

Reference management software can make this process easier, providing a single location for storing the referencing information for all of the material you read and/or find in searches. It also can allow you to sort this information into topics and areas of work, but still stored in the same place. You can use the software for collecting and organising references without using any of the citation features, and instead write your own citations using the information stored in your library.

You may decide that reference management software wastes your time rather than saving it - that's okay! Ensure that you have some kind of system for keeping track of what you read, whether that be using a document or spreadsheet, or a notebook, so that when you're writing up work you have the information you need at your fingertips.

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Reference management practical guide

Our practical guide to reference management covers the key concepts for each stage of the process and how to use features in EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero, and Paperpile to effectively collect, organise, cite, and share your references.

You can refer to the guide with specific questions, or work through the whole guide with suggested exercises. It also contains the slides from our reference management training session.

Choosing a reference management application

The University of York supports four different reference management applications: EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero, and Paperpile. They all have slightly different features, but the reference management practical guide covers their respective key features and how to use these in more detail.

Not sure which to choose? Here's some key considerations when choosing a reference management application (also useful more generally for choosing applications):

  • Which part of the process is most important to you and for your work?
    Do you really need to be able to get full text PDFs because you work with a lot of online articles? Are you looking to systematically search and organise the contents of the library of references you create? Do you want to cite in a particular text processing tool?
  • How do you want to access your references?
    Do you use the same device all the time, or work across multiple computers? Will you need to access your references online? Do you want a tool that works in a desktop application?

Once you've thought about these questions, look at the practical guide's summary of each application to see which might suit your needs. It is easy to move your library between applications if you change your mind, so it could be worth trying out multiple tools to see which you prefer.

Referencing styles

In academic writing it is important to support your arguments with appropriate references.

You should familiarise yourself with your department's chosen referencing style.

Obtaining the styles

The University of York specific styles can be added to your reference management application. The method for doing this differs across different tools, so check the practical guide's Cite page for how to do it in your chosen application.

For Mendeley, Paperpile, and Zotero, you should be able to search within an option to get additional styles for 'university of york' to see the available University styles, and then choose to install these as one of the options that appears in your referencing styles list.

For EndNote Desktop, you have to download the University styles and then add them to a Styles folder - see the practical guide's information on citing with EndNote for more details. For EndNote Online, as long as you've logged in with the University enhanced version as detailed on the IT Services page for EndNote Online, you should be able to add UoY styles to your favourites list.

Note: if you use Harvard, make sure you select 'University of York - Harvard' rather than 'Harvard(York)' (the latter is not from the University and is slighty different).

The CSL files below can be used with other applications if needed, and the .zip folder is specifically so you can download the styles for EndNote desktop.