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Citation Management Tools

This guide offers an overview and comparison of some of the most popular Citation Managers.

What is a Citation Management Tool?

A citation management tool (also known as a reference manager application or a bibliographic manager) can be a useful tool for anyone doing research. Reference managers allow you to:

  • Create bibliographies quickly and automatically format in-text citations with word processing software (Word, Google Docs, Open Office).
  • Collect citations as you research, and save them in a personal account.
  • Add citations automatically certain sources without having to cut and paste or retype the information.
  • Annotate citations and link them to full-text documents.
  • Organize citations into folders.

While a number of reference manager applications exist, the most popular ones among researchers are: Zotero, Endnote, Mendeley, and RefWorks.

Please use the tabs to decide which is best for you.  One thing to keep in mind is that it can be hard to switch from one platform to another.  You can export your citations, but transferring tags or folders will be difficult.

More extensive comparisons can be found at:



Endnote logo

EndNote Subject Guide at USC SOM Library

How it works:

  • EndNote is a citation management and bibliography-creation tool. Using EndNote, you can:

    • add citations for journal articles, books, web pages, etc. to your library
    • download citations from databases like PubMed
    • format citations into bibliographies using your preferred bibliographic style
    • organize your references into folders or groups
    • share your citations with others
    • EndNote includes Cite While You Write, a plug-in you can use to insert references from your library and format a bibliography while you write in Microsoft Word.

There are three versions of EndNote:

  • EndNote Online (freely available basic version)
  • Endnote Online through Web of Science (available for USC)
  • EndNote Online/Desktop (free for faculty and staff)

​All USC School of Medicine faculty, staff, and students have access to EndNote Online through the Library's Web of Science subscription. With EndNote Online, your citations are stored in the cloud rather than on your desktop. 

Two advantages of the EndNote Online access through Web of Science are:

  • It offers hundreds of more citation style options than the EndNote Online that is freely available to anyone.
  • Our Full Text Finder button automatically shows up next to your stored citations, so you can easily link to access full text (instead of downloading PDFs and storing them).

EndNote Desktop/Online is freely available for faculty and staff from the USC Division of Information Technology via Software Distribution on

Follow these steps to download EndNote:

1. Sign in to
2. In the Personal section select, Purchase Computer Software.
3. In the Software for Work section, select EndNote.
4. Enter the quantity.
5. On the Purchase Details page, you will be prompted to enter your operation unit number, department number, fund number, and class number. Check with your department administration for fund numbers. 

(NOTE: USC does not have an institutional subscription to EndNote Desktop/Online for students. However, USC has registered with the online retailer, On the Hub.  On the Hub offers discounted pricing for various applications, including Academic discounts for the full version of EndNote.  To access this discount, simply visit, click register on the top right, then do so using your USC email address (“”).

How to get help:

  • See help information on the EndNote website.  



Zotero logo

Zotero Website

Zotero Tutorials Guide at USC Thomas Cooper Library

How it works: 

  • Zotero is a FREE online tool that helps you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. 
  • Desktop download and browser plugin.  Citations are saved on your computer and to the Zotero server, and may be synced across devices.

How to get it:


  • Easy to access and use from within browsers; importing citations can be accomplished with one click. 
  • Share citations with other users and the public using the Groups feature.
  • Excellent for capturing information about web resources.  Allows you to save and annotate websites.
  • You can save attachments to Zotero’s server or your personal computer.


  • Use on more than one computer requires syncing; not designed for use on public or shared computers.  

How to get help:



Mendeley Logo

Mendeley Website

How it works:

  • A FREE tool available to everyone. Software application available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and iOS devices.  Also available via a web interface.

How to get it:


  • Manages not only citations, but also creates a well-managed library of your imported papers. 
  • Regularly syncs content between machines and with the web version, keeping you always up to date. 
  • Mendeley is the most social of citation managers.  You can form groups to share resources and citations within your lab/study group/cohort. 
  • Integrates with MS Word for easy inserting of citations/bibliographies.


  • Mendeley is owned by Elsevier, a for-profit company with a history of monetizing scholarship in ways that some consider harmful to the academy. Like other “free” platforms operated by for-profit companies, Mendeley provides Elsevier with data about users’ research habits, which it then uses to market its services and metrics to universities. This is part of an overall trend toward vendors serving and monetizing every step in the research workflow. Researchers concerned about privacy or excessive monetization of research might prefer non-profit alternatives.

How to get help:


RefWorks Website

Requires a subscription (USC does not have an institutional subscription)

Refworks facts:

  • Collect and Import –  Auto completion of reference data and retrieval of full text saves time and ensures accurate citations.
  • Manage Research –  enables users to organize, read, and annotate everything they collect and import.
  • Share and Collaborate – allows users to share collections and collaborate with others.
  • Write and Cite – delivers thousands of customizable citation styles to use within authoring tools.
  • Streamlined Workflows – boasts streamlined workflows that increase productivity.  

How to get help: