Skip to main content

Citation Style Guide

Click to Chat with a Librarian


Text: (571) 248-7542

Citation Programs and Software

What is citation management software?

Citation management software, also called “bibliographic software”, allows you to organize, store, and retrieve information, such as citations for books, articles, and Web sites. You can simultaneously import records and PDFs from databases. You can add abstracts, keywords and other functions that enhance and improve the efficiency of your project. The citation manager then works with word-processing software to insert properly formatted footnotes or citations into a paper and create a bibliography.

What it won't do:

It will not always create a perfect bibliography or reference list according to your favorite style. For example, you will still have to know APA, MLA, Chicago or Turabian and check over your results. It will not correct errors or omissions that were in the database from which you retrieved references. It will not always know what type of material you are putting into it from a database (e.g. it cannot always distinguish a proceeding from a book).

What are online citation builders?

Citation builders are free, online sites that allow you to quickly create citations and bibliographies but not to store information or link to word-processing software. For a list, simply Google "citation builders" for a list.  AU students are encouraged to learn how to use citation management software rather than relying on citation builders.  

How do I know which tool to use?

There is no one program that currently works best to support everyone's needs. Online citation builders are helpful when you are in a rush and have a small number of sources to manage. Citation software is more time consuming but extremely useful for handling larger, more complex citations and for its word processing compatibility. There are a variety of citation software tools available and each has its own strengths.  The AU Library provides EndNote as a free download to the AU community. The Library also offers support for Zotero and Mendeley, two other citation software tools. Please see the comparison table of citation software below. 

Citation Manager Comparison Chart

Criteria Zotero Mendeley EndNote
Web based? Can sync with online account; connectors for Firefox, Chrome and Safari and Opera available Not primarily, but can sync with an online account which is editable No, but can transfer library to EndNote Online
Operating System Windows, Mac, Linux Windows, Mac, Linux Windows or MAC
Cost Free for basic account, some cost for more online storage space Free for basic account, some cost for more online storage space $$, AU community may download for free through portal
Word-processor compatibility MS Word, Open Office, Google Docs MS Word, Open Office, LaTex MS Office, Open Office, iWork Pages
Mobile Device Application 3rd party iOS and Android apps, web interface iPad, iPhone, 3rd party Android apps, web interface iPad, web interface
Number of citation styles About 16 pre-loaded, "thousands" available for download from Zotero Over 1180 Top 100 downloaded, over 4000 more available
Number of import filters 247 "translators;" other sources captured as web page About 50, + COinS, + integrates with Zotero's "translators" 700+
Import from databases Yes Yes Direct export from specific databases
Import citation info from web pages Yes, also archives the page and you can add annotations Yes, with a bookmark for a limited number of sites (mostly publishers or databases) only with EndNote Basic (Web)
Storage capacity Unlimited local storage and data syncing; 100MB free Zotero file syncing (larger syncing plans available for purchase); or can use WebDav Unlimited local storage and data syncing; 1GB personal and 100MB shared online space (larger online storage plans available for purchase) Unlimited local storage
Attach associated files (PDFs, etc.) Yes, with option to attach automatically Yes, and can highlight and annotate PDFs Yes, and can highlight and annotate PDFs
Search full text of PDFs Yes Yes Yes
Duplicate detection Yes Limited Yes; fully customizable
Create group or shared libraries Yes Yes, free for up to 3 group members (larger group plans available for purchase) No but EndNote Basic (Web) can
Create bibliography with different styles Yes Yes Yes
Automatic citation extraction from PDFs Yes Yes Yes
Other features Sync library with multiple computers
Use tags to organize/search
Sync library with multiple computers
Sync with Zotero library
Insert figures and charts using word processor integration

 adapted from Penn State University Libraries