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EG5911R Information Literacy Skills for Research (Engineering): Citation Managers


Citation managers (or reference managers or citation software or bibliographic management tools) are software that:

  • Stores and organises references from many sources (e.g. databases, library catalogues and search engines)
  • Inserts these references into a document
  • Formats your references automatically according to a predefined citation style

NUS Libraries conduct tutorials on how to use Zotero, EndNote and Mendeley effectively every semester. Watch out for NUS Libraries' emails.

Citation Managers

Zotero is a free bibliographic citation management software that allows you to save, collect, manage, cite, and share research sources.  Zotero is available either as a Firefox extension or as standalone software that works with Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers.  It works right in your browser, making it easy to save you citations while you search. Use the Zotero word processor plugins to easily cite your sources and create a bibliography while you work.

For further details, please refer to Zotero Guide.

EndNote is a desktop-based citation manager, complimented with web-based version called EndNote Basic.  It has over 6000 citation styles to be used via Cite While You Write (CWYW) in word processing application.

To know more about EndNote, refer to EndNote Guide.

Mendeley is a citation management tool that, like many others, lets you collect & organize citations, and then easily insert them into documents & format bibliographies.  It also lets you drag & drop PDFs into your library & extracts the metadata to create a library!

To know more about Mendeley, refer to Mendeley Guide.

Here is a simple comparison of Mendeley, EndNote and Zotero.

For a more detailed comparison, refer to:






Free for NUS staff and students, else US$299.95 for full version

Free for NUS staff and students with 100GB personal library space Free with 300MB, pay for upgraded storage (min. 2GB for US$20/year)
Strengths • Offers the most options for customization and formatting
• Has the most output styles for formatting
• Handles large amounts of references
• Networking with global Mendeley community: see what other users are reading and citing, find other members with common research interest
• Does an excellent job of pulling citation metadata from PDFs
• Ability to suggest relevant articles based on Mendeley Library
• Searches articles through Mendeley Cloud
• Good for managing a variety of formats, including webpages
• Offers the most functionalities in a free and open-source product
• Imports records from several databases that don't work with EndNote and RefWorks, e.g. USPTO
Reasons to Select This Software

• The most matured software among the ones compared here
• Offers some advanced features that may be necessary for your discipline and work flow

• Your research content is primarily contained in PDF files
• Use it to manage bibliography, not fulltext
• Accessible anywhere in multiple devices
• Facilitates collaboration with colleagues

• Enables retrieval of PDF metadata, which allows you to create citation records by dragging a PDF into Zotero
• One of the best web importers which can create citations even for websites and YouTube videos.

Learning Curve Much to learn. Requires training to make learning easier.  Easy to learn Easy to learn
User Interface Slightly complicated Simple, modern and relatively intuitive Simple design
Word Processing Software Word, Apple Pages, OpenOffice, Wolfram Mathematica 8, LaTex through BibTex Word, Mac Word, OpenOffice, BibTeX Word, OpenOffice (via 3rd party plugin), LaTex through BibTex
Max Number of Records Unlimited, but 100,000 recommended Unlimited on desktop, 100GB free web storage Unlimited on desktop, 300MB free web storage