Citation Software and Tools

About this content

The content on this page is based on information developed by the librarians of the MIT Libraries, with their permission and our thanks.

What is bibliographic software?

Bibliographic software (also called "citation managers" or "reference managers") helps you to:

  • import citations from your favorite databases and websites.
  • build and organize bibliographies.
  • format citations for papers.
  • take notes on articles and save them in your collection of citations.
  • save and organize pdfs, screenshots, graphs, images, and other files.

Which program is right for you?

How do you know which program is right for you? Some things to think about when you choose:

Sharing your work
Some programs allow you to share your work with your fellow students or collaborators. Others are designed primarily for individual work.
Use what you like!
There is no one perfect program, so use what you're comfortable with.
You can use more than one tool.
Records can be transferred from one program to another, so don't feel limited to choosing only one.
  EndNote Refworks Zotero
  • Web version: Free!
    Available free through the Web of Knowledge database licensed by Cal Poly Library; click on tab "My Endnote Web"
  • Desktop application: Over $100; must purchase software. (Available via Amazon and other software vendors)
  • $100 per year license fee for individuals (Available via Amazon and other software vendors)
  • Free!
    Zotero is an open-source Firefox extension, available for free. You can download it on your own computer or use it on any of the Cal Poly Library computer lab and open lab workstations.
  • Excellent for organizing citations for major papers and theses
  • Best option for major research projects, because it offers the most options for customization and formatting
  • Most output styles for formatting
  • Most customizable
  • Allows users to share citations
  • Good for organizing citations for papers
  • Web-based – access your citations from anywhere.
  • Simple download of records
  • Good for managing a variety of formats, including webpages.
  • Saves web page snapshots locally for off-line consultation.
  • Lots of annotation and tagging options.
  • Offers most functionality in a free, open-source product (e.g. attach files to a citation;
  • Downloads records from with several databases that don't work with EndNote.
Learning Curve?
  • Takes longer to learn, but not difficult with training
  • Fairly quick to learn; many online user guides and demos
  • Quick to learn; simple design, many online user guides and demos.

Get more information

Scroll down to "Mark of Zotero" on the OPAL Archives Page for more videos and a blog post on why one researcher switched from EndNote to Zotero.