Writing Guides: Citation Managers

Citation Managers

These are the three most popular citation managers. 


  • Zotero is free! It is open source and will allow you to retain your citations and references even after you graduate and no longer have access to the Virtual Library and databases. 
  • Zotero is a great choice for those with diverse research content. It is a single-click capture which makes it easy to gather citation records for both PDF and non-PDF content, including websites, databases, catalogs, and audio/visual files. Zotero also allows users to save the citations to your computer while also syncing the information with your account via the internet which allows you to access the information on other computers. 
  • This is the librarians personal favorite citation manager.


  • Mendeley's free version is limited to 2GB of web storage and 3 users per group, but users can purchase premium plans to upgrade storage space, users, and shared groups.
  • Mendeley is great for those who primarily use PDF files when researching. It allows users to drag and drop PDFs into their libraries and extract the necessary information to create a library. Users can also highlight and annotate PDFs and share them with others, as well as create collections of papers and share them.
  • Mendeley is owned and controlled by Elsevier, a for-profit academic publisher. (Nursing students may recognize the name as Elsevier publishes many of their textbooks.)


  • Is NOT free. Costs around $115 for students to purchase. 
  • Endnote allows you to easily read, review, annotate, and search PDFs in your library.
  • Endnote can attach up to 45 files to your citations, including sound and video files. 

What are Citation Managers?

Citation managers are tools to help you keep track of PDFs, articles, books and more during the course of research. Citation managers keep track of the specific data that will be used for in-text citations, footnotes, works cited pages, and more. Often, using a citation manager is more efficient than not using one at all. There are multiple citation managers available for download and use, which can be more confusing than helpful. However, the librarian is available, and excited, to help you discover the one that works best for you.

Most citation managers consist of three parts: 

  1. a collection of your citations
  2. a browser plug-in to more easily capture citation information from your sources
  3. a plug-in or other way to easily get your citations into your work, usually in a variety of citation styles.

McGill University offers a great YouTube playlist about using Zotero. Each video, like this introduction, is about 1-3 minutes long.