Comparing Citation Management Tools


This page provides tips for choosing between the various citation management tool options.




What Is a Citation Management Tool?

Citation management tools help users:

  • import citations from databases, websites, and library catalogs
  • create bibliographies in most output styles
  • format citations for papers
  • manage, categorize, and organize citations
  • attach PDF's, images, etc to citations in your collection and add notes to any citation(s)



How Do I Choose the Between RefWorks, EndNote, and Zotero?


The three most popular tools at NYU are RefWorks, EndNote and Zotero. Here we'll discuss how to choose between these three tools.


RefWorks, EndNote, and Zotero all provide the following basic functionality:

    • Import a citation record from a library catalog, such as BobCat and WorldCat, or database such as JSTOR.

    • Give you the ability to organize the saved information into folders and groups, with the ability to search and edit.

    • Give you the ability to 'insert' the information as citations into research papers with a variety if citation styles, such as APA, MLA, Chicago and more.

    • All tools are freely available to NYU students.


Choosing a tool ultimately depends on your personal workflow preferences and your needs. Below are some of the common needs that people have and the tools that best meet those needs. See the comparison chart for the full feature details these tools and others.


Your Need

Best Tool(s)


I need to work from multiple computers and locations. RefWorks RefWorks is web-based which means that you can access it from any computer or location.
I need to work offline EndNote
Both EndNote and Zotero allow you to access your saved citations offline.
I'll be doing a lot of my research on freely available websites and need to be able to save copies of webpages. Zotero Zotero allows you to easily save snapshots of webpages (useful for capturing the website as it was when you viewed it), and it is very efficient at pulling out the relevant citation information for a website, especially web-based publications such as the NY Times, etc.
I'm working on a group project and need to share my references with others... RefWorks
RefWorks allows you to share folders of references with others; you can also give individuals the ability to add and edit references in the folder.
Zotero allows you to create public or private groups and share resources with group members.
I'm not so comfortable with technology and may potentially need a lot of help with my tool. RefWorks NYU Libraries subscribes to both RefWorks and EndNote; however, we offer the most support for RefWorks.  While we can answer questions about Zotero, Zotero is a freely-available tool and NYU Libraries cannot provide extensive support for technical issues, mishaps, etc.



Citation Management Tool Comparison Chart


This comparison chart gives you a brief overview of the main features of several bibliographic software programs.

  RefWorks EndNote EndNote Web*
Web Based Yes No Yes No Yes ***Yes
Must be online to use Yes No Yes No Yes No
Cost Free** Free** Free ** $$ Free Free
Adding References  
Import from online databases Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Import citation info from web pages Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes

Import data from RSS feeds

Yes No No No No Yes

Utilize NYU's GetIt link for full text

Yes Yes No No No Yes
Create bibliographies Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Create footnotes, in-text references Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Sharing, Storing  
Tag items for discussion No No No No No Yes, in shared collections
Generate RSS feeds from references No No No No No No
Collaborate Yes Yes Yes  No Yes Yes
Storage Yes, 5G per person No No No No Yes, 100 MG, cloud based

* EndNote Web adds many online features to the EndNote desktop application, but may be used alone.

** NYU Libraries licenses the use of RefWorks for NYU students and faculty.

***Zotero is a local client application that syncs data accessible on the web through a read-only interface. You cannot log into and edit/add citations; it must be done through your local application. The web access is primarily a read-only backup and group discovery tool.


General Tips for Choosing the Right Tool


    • Consult the chart above to determine if any tool is clearly a best fit for you.

    • Talk to people in your department. Do individuals in your discipline tend to use one tool more heavily?

  • Once you've chosen a tool, be sure to stick with it. Saving information in two different tools can make it difficult to keep track of your citations.


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