Reference management software

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Reference management software, citation management software or personal bibliographic management software is software for scholars and authors to use for recording and utilising bibliographic citations (references).[1] Once a citation has been recorded, it can be used time and again in generating bibliographies, such as lists of references in scholarly books, articles and essays. The development of reference management packages has been driven by the rapid expansion of scientific literature.

These software packages normally consist of a database in which full bibliographic references can be entered, plus a system for generating selective lists of articles in the different formats required by publishers and scholarly journals. Modern reference management packages can usually be integrated with word processors so that a reference list in the appropriate format is produced automatically as an article is written, reducing the risk that a cited source is not included in the reference list. They will also have a facility for importing the details of publications from bibliographic databases.

Reference management software does not do the same job as a bibliographic database, which tries to list all articles published in a particular discipline or group of disciplines; examples are those provided by Ovid Technologies (e.g. Medline), the Institute for Scientific Information (e.g. Web of Knowledge) or monodisciplinary learned societies e.g. the American Psychological Association (PsycINFO). These databases are large and have to be housed on major server installations. Reference management software collects a much smaller database, of the publications that have been used or are likely to be used by a particular author or group, and such a database can easily be housed on an individual's personal computer.

Apart from managing references, most reference management software also enables users to search references from online libraries. These online libraries are usually based on Z39.50 public protocol. Users just need to specify the IP address, database name and keywords to start a Z39.50 search. It is quicker and more efficient than a web browser. However, Z39.50 is a little out of date. Some popular scientific websites, such as Google Scholar, IEEE Xplore and arXiv, do not support the Z39.50 protocol.

Comparison of reference management software[edit]

Reference management in Wikipedia[edit]

Wikipedia, which runs on the MediaWiki software, has built-in tools for the management of references. These tools, in many ways, have the function of reference management software, in that they (1) automatically number the references, (2) generate the reference list and (3) create links between the component of the citation in the text and the reference list. Unlike traditional reference management tools, MediaWiki does not store references in a database constructed to facilitate ease of citation.

Alternatives to reference management software[edit]

One advantage of reference management software is the time users save inserting formatted citations into academic work. However, each user or group has to develop their own personal database of references. This process can itself be time consuming .[2][3] Possible alternatives to reference management software include: reference checkers and citation creators.

Reference checkers[edit]

Reference checkers do not require the user to develop and maintain their own database of references. Instead, reference checkers take finished or near finished pieces of academic work and compare the citations listed in the main body of the text with the references listed at the end. They then highlight any inconsistencies. Such solutions claim to save the user the time of having to do this process by hand.[4][5][6]

Citation creators[edit]

Citation creators or citation generators are online tools which facilitate the creation of works cited and bibliographies. Citation creators use web forms to take input and format the output according to guidelines and standards, such as the Modern Language Association's MLA Style Manual, American Psychological Association's APA style, The Chicago Manual of Style, or Turabian format. Some citation creators generate only run-time output, while others store the citation data for later use.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Francese, Enrico (2013). "Usage of Reference Management Software at the University of Torino". (University of Florence) 4 (1). doi:10.4403/ Retrieved 29 June 2013.  edit
  2. ^ Meredith, Sandra (2013). "Critical review of referencing software when used with OSCOLA.". European Journal of Law and Technology 4 (1). ISSN 2042-115X. 
  3. ^ "EndNote for Law". Law Library, University of Melbourne. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Garretson, Gregory. "Gregory's Reference Checker". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "Recite: APA and Harvard citations checked instantly". 4cite Labs. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  6. ^ Sensecall, Paul. "ReferenceChecker". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 

External links[edit]