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Introduction to Citation Managers
Citation management software, also known as bibliographic management software or citation managers, can help you manage and organize your citations and format bibliographies and footnotes in your papers.
Many different citation management tools are available - some are available for free while others are not. EndNote is a leading product in a group of desktop, fee-based, citation managers. Competing with the desktop products are web-based programs. Popular names in this second group are Refworks, EndNote Web, Zotero, and many more. All citation managers carry out the same basic functions but specific features may vary from program to program.
Most citation management tools can help you to:
import citation information from databases and library catalogs
collect, organize, and annotate citations
generate bibliographies and format footnotes or endnotes in a variety of styles
Purdue University Libraries currently supports EndNote, EndNote Web, and Zotero. The latter two are web-based and available free to Purdue users. See this comparison chart to learn more about these free programs so you can decide which one can better meet your research needs.
Citation Managers Basic Functions
1. Providing a search interface. For databases (such as PubMed, Biological Abstracts or PsycINFO), search by one of two modes:
- through "connection" or "config" files. Searching databases directly from within the citation manager
- through a combination of export-import "filters". Searching databases is performed as usual using vendor interfaces. Citations are selected and downloaded (exported) to your hard drive. The exported results are then imported into the citation manager using a special filter
2. Creating a database of references. Once citations are captured, they can be stored, organized and manipulated in personal mini-databases called "libraries" or groups. Many different “libraries” can be created and they can be constantly re-organized to meet changing needs.
3. Inserting citations into word processing documents. Using a "cite-while-you-write" feature, citations and footnotes can be inserted into their proper place as you write a paper or manuscript. As they are inserted, a bibliography is automatically generated and updated as you change the citations. The newest software versions can permit tables and figures to be inserted as "citations".
4. Linking between citations to image or PDF files. Recent versions of citation managers permit links to image or PDF files stored on the hard drive of your computer. Legends to images, figures and tables can be created. Linked images and PDF files can also be inserted into word processing documents as if they were citations.
5. Creating a stand-alone bibliography (reference list). Using criteria you determine, you can create stand-alone bibliographies that can be saved in common word processing program formats.