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Use a Citation Manager: sub-module 1 of 3 of cite sources

As you search and find resources for your paper, keeping everything organized can be a challenge. A citation manager is a software tool that will help you keep track of all the materials you’ve found. Once you’ve set up a citation manager, you can add articles and other resources with a single click. In addition, when it’s time to write your paper, the citation manager will help you format your citations in APA style.



  • Use a browser extension. Install your citation manager’s browser extension to make it easy to add online resources to the manager.
  • Stay organized. Use folders, tags, and other tools to organize your library of sources.
  • Create a group library. When working on a group assignment, create a group library to share with your teammates. Then, you can all add sources to your collective library and have access to the shared list.
  • Integrate with Word. Use your citation manager’s Microsoft Word integration to format and insert your citations into your document easily.
  • Check your citations yourself. Citation managers aren’t perfect. Always double-check citations generated by your citation manager to verify that they follow the citation style rules.
  • Keep track of your sources to make it easier to avoid plagiarism. Using a citation manager can help you avoid plagiarism by making it easy to credit your sources. If you add all of your materials to your library as you search, you will be able to find them when it’s time to write your paper.

Using Citation Managers

Choosing a Citation Manager

Citation managers are tools that help you keep track of the sources you want to use in your paper and create draft citations for those sources. Using a citation manager can help you keep track of the sources you find and use. Every citation manager is different, so look at the features of each one to decide which one best fits your needs.

These are the most popular citation managers:

  • EndNote - Opens in a new window
    • Paid, but your school may offer it to students for free or at a discount
    • Full desktop application version available on Windows and Mac
    • Free web browser-based version available (EndNote Basic), with limited functionality
  • RefWorks - Opens in a new window
    • Paid, but your school may offer it to students for free
    • Completely web-based interface
  • Mendeley - Opens in a new window
    • Free, proprietary software
    • Available for download on Windows, Mac, and Linux
    • Includes a browser-based tool
  • Zotero - Opens in a new window
    • Free open-source software
    • Available for download on Windows, Mac, and Linux
    • Includes browser-based tool

How do I choose?

When choosing which citation manager to use, consider the following questions:

  • Did your professor recommend one? If your professor recommends a particular citation manager, we suggest you go with that one.
  • Are you working with a group? If you’re working on a group assignment and want to contribute to a group library, you will probably need to use the same citation manager your teammates are using.
  • Have you used one in the past? If you’re already familiar with one of these citation managers, it may make your life slightly easier to continue with that one.
  • Does your library support one? If your library supports a particular citation manager, you may be able to get more help if you choose that one.

Using a Citation Manager

Every citation manager is different, but there are a few features that are common to most citation managers you might use. Watch the video or read the instructions below to learn the basics of how to use these features.

How to use a citation manager

Here are some common functions of citation managers that can help you keep track of your sources and create citations.

At the core of every citation manager is the place where you keep your list of items; this is usually called your library. There are several ways to save items to your library, but the easiest way is to install your citation manager’s browser extension (there will be instructions on how to do this on your citation manager’s website). This extension will add a button to your browser.

To add items using a browser extension:

  1. Open the record for an article/another resource in the database, discovery layer, etc.
  2. Click the citation manager button. This will gather all of the information you’ll need to cite this source (author, title, date, etc.) and save it into your library.

When you save an item into your library, it may or may not include the full text. Your citation manager will try to save the full text, if it’s available on the page, when you click the browser button. If this doesn’t work, you can save the full text onto your computer and then attach it to the item in your library. Attaching the full text in your citation manager will make it easy for you to read the article again.

Once you have some items in your library, you’ll want to keep things organized so you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for easily. You may want to organize your library based on different themes of a topic or based on different assignments you’re working on. Most citation managers offer the following options for staying organized:

  • Folders (sometimes known as Collections)
  • Tags
  • Notes
  • The ability to sort by Title, Author, or any other field

If you’re working on a group assignment, using a citation manager makes sharing resources with your teammates easy.

To use a group library:

  1. Ensure everyone in your group has signed up for an account with the same citation manager.
  2. Create a group library.
  3. Invite everyone in your group to join.
  4. Along with your teammates, add and remove items, leave comments, and more.

Once you’re ready to start writing your paper, a citation manager can help format your citations. Here’s how to add your citations and references into your documents in the following software:

  • Microsoft Word: Every major citation manager has a plugin for Microsoft Word that will allow you to generate both in-text citations and full references in APA style and insert them in the appropriate places.
  • Google Docs: Some citation managers also have plugins for Google Docs that will allow you to insert your in-text citations and references.
  • Other software: If you need to add references in another program (e.g., PowerPoint, Outlook), you can select the items in your citation manager and paste an APA-style references list into any program.
Note: Citation managers are not perfect, and they can make errors when formatting your references. Make sure that you check to make sure the references are correct. You will often find minor errors in any automatically generated references. Still, it is usually faster to fix a few minor mistakes than to create the references entirely on your own. Think of the reference that has been generated for you by the citation manager as a rough draft that you can then correct.