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Cloud-Based Tools for Organizing Your Citations

There are many citation management tools available that allow you to not only save your citations but also to automatically create formatted bibliographies. This can potentially save you a decent amount of work — especially if you're submitting to a journal that uses an unfamiliar citation format.

In general, these tools allow users to capture article and books they wish to use for a project. In addition to capturing a URL, these tools capture metadata, like publication dates and authors. Once captured, you can organize your citations however you see fit.

Ideally, once you are up and running with a tool, you'll capture citations and articles as you work and when the time comes for a bibliography, you'll just tell the tool which citation style you wish to use.

Choosing a tool can be a challenge, though. There are lots of options and it can be hard to know which tool is best. This page will provide a quick overview of current citation management tools, with a focus on tools that offer some degree of web syncablility, meaning you always have access to your citations, even if you're not on your usual computer, or if your computer crashes.


screenshot of RefWorks

RefWorks: RefWorks is a subscription product available to all LaGuardia faculty, students, and staff for free.


screenshot of Zotero

Zotero: Zotero is a free product. It began as a Firefox add-on but now exists as an independent, stand-alone client. While the Zotero stand-alone client is nice, the version bundled within Firefox is especially convenient, assuming you use Firefox as your browser. The browser-based client allows users to move seamlessly between finding content and then capturing it.


screenshot of Mendeley

Mendeley: Mendeley is another free product. It is a stand-alone client, but like Zotero, it works with browser bookmarklets to capture content found online.


screenshot of CiteULike

CiteULike: CiteULike is another free product (although, there is a paid tier that offers more functionality). Like RefWorks, it is entirely web-based, meaning the user does not need to download anything.

Choosing a Tool

All four tools are impressive and committing to any of them will make the task of managing citations easier for most users. The advantage of RefWorks and CiteULike is that they require no downloading of software (although both require installing browser bookmarks to import content on the fly). The RefWorks browser tools only work with Internet Explorer and Firefox, leaving other browser users out in the cold (although you can view and organize your RefWorks citations from any browser). CiteULike's browser tools work across browsers, but it is the only tool that does not integrate with any word processors.

Users with a lot of files on their local computer might do better to start with something like Mendeley or Zotero, as both of those make it very easy to import PDFs into the client. Plus, both can often pull metadata from the PDFs, identifying things like article title and author. Both tools will also sync those citations to the cloud.

Finally, all four tools provide flexible export options for all of your citations, so if one tool doesn't work, it's very easy to move everything into another one.

For more information on choosing or using a citation management tool, contact Web Services Librarian Steven Ovadia (sovadia@lagcc.cuny.edu; X6022)

Updated February 5, 2013