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Reference Management Tools: Overview

Reference management tools allow you to save references from your searches to an online account (e.g. book references from the Library catalogue or journal article references from a database).

These tools also work with word processors (e.g. Microsoft Word, Google Docs) so that when you’re writing assignments you can quickly add in-text citations, and they will automatically generate a reference list, formatted in a citation style of your choice. Although these tools save a huge amount of time, it is still extremely important to know how to reference correctly. Consult our citing & referencing page for all you need to know about avoiding plagiarism, citing, and referencing.

There are many other features of reference managers that will also help manage your searches e.g. adding notes, appending full-text, de-duplication of references. 

There are lots of reference management tools available. Some are subscription based (you need to pay to have access) others are freely available eg. Mendeley, Zotero. Zotero is the tool for which DCU Library provides support.

Citation Styles

Reference management tools will output references in a variety of different styles. Check which style is required by your lecturer/school. 

Important! Always cross-check reference lists and in-text citations for accuracy and consistency against the recommended style guide.

Remember that there can be different versions of the same style that may differ slightly from each other. For example, the Harvard style DCU recommends is Harvard Cite Them Right, as described in Cite Them Right Online. In Zotero this is listed as Cite Them Right 10th Ed - Harvard.


Zotero is a free reference management tool which collects, manages, and cites your research sources. This is the tool supported by DCU Library. Check out our Zotero guide for further information including how to download the software to your own device.

Our Getting Started Video below is also a good place to start


Other Tools

Zotero is currently the only tool for which support is provided by DCU Library however there are others you may wish to use. Popular choices include:

Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research

EndNote Basic  this is the free, limited, online version of EndNote (a subscription based product). It has limited amount of storage and reference styles.