Citation management software and tools

About citation management tools -- and help 

Citation or reference management tools collect your journal article, book, or other document citations together in one place, and help you create properly formatted bibliographies in almost any style -- in seconds.  Citation management tools help you keep track of your sources while you work and store your references for future use and reuse. 

While each citation management tool provides some unique features, all of the following tools can help you: 

  • Access and manage your sources online, all in one place
  • Import references from library databases and websites (some tools also import references from PDFs!)
  • Automatically generate bibliographies and in-text citations within Microsoft Word (some tools also work with OpenOffice and LibreOffice)
  • Share your collection of sources with others
  • Work with NVivo (Windows and Mac) or other research software
For help with citation management tools, please contact us at

Privacy notice: Your use of these citation software and services is voluntary.  Please be advised that any information you enter on these services is stored on servers located outside of Canada.


Zotero is a free, open source tool that helps you collect, organize, cite and share your research sources.  Citations can easily be added by dragging and dropping PDFs of articles into your account, or by using the Zotero Connector in your browser to add sources from the web. 

Use of Zotero is free with up to 300MB of storage.  You can get additional storage by using ZotFile or purchasing additional storage.

Large-scale imports from databases using the Zotero save button too frequently may be viewed as "excessive" downloading by some vendors, such as Web of Science. This will result in the IP address being block and access to the SFU community denied. Please avoid saving too many items at once. 


ZotFile is a plug-in that helps you maximize your Zotero storage space by automatically saving & syncing your PDFs to a dropbox folder or a custom location on your computer (so that you're not using up all your storage space with the PDF files).  ZotFile provides features like: 

  • automatically saving & syncing your PDFs to a dropbox folder or a custom location on your computer
  • automatically renaming your PDFs (based on rules like author, year, publication name, etc.) 
  • extracting your annotations from PDFs (e.g. highlighted text or notes on the PDF) to the notes field in Zotero, so that they're searchable within Zotero

Other citation management tools


  • Mendeley is a reference manager to help you organize and share your research and academic social network.  Mendeley is free with up to 2GB of storage.  Extra storage is available for a fee.
  • Citations can be added by dragging and dropping PDFs of articles into your account.  You can use the Mendeley bookmarklet to import citations from databases and websites. 
  • New to Mendeley? We recommend signing up with an email and password rather than the option to sign in via your institution. The institution login does not give you access to Mendeley Desktop, which includes many useful features.


Please note: access to SFU RefWorks has been discontinued as of December 31, 2017, and is no longer supported.
Questions? Contact


Interested in learning more about citation management tools we didn't list here? See this Wikipedia article that compares citation management tools

Comparing citation management tools

Not sure which citation manager is right for you? We recommend Zotero, but you don't have to take our word for it - check out MIT Library compares EndNote, Zotero and Mendeley for more info. 

One important point to note: most of the popular citation management products store your data on non-Canadian servers, which means your account information may be subject to US laws, specifically the US Patriot Act.  This act allows US authorities to access your personal information.  If you are concerned that your personal information is stored outside Canada, do not use these services. SFU Library has been unable to identify any citation management products that store data exclusively on Canadian servers. However, the following tools can be downloaded to your computer and used offline exclusively: 

Note that there are no guarantees on the privacy of these tools, since most of them also have online functionality, and using any online features will affect the privacy of your data.


Click here to see the schedule, or register for our upcoming workshops.

Workshop slides and handouts:

Cite Your Sources Easier and Faster With Zotero [ slides | handout ]