Reference management tools

Tools to help you integrate and manage references and bibliographies.

EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero are just some of the tools used for managing references and bibliographies. To help you choose one, we have listed a number of links to articles comparing the different tools. Please be aware that some of these sites list EndNote as a software to purchase. RMIT students and staff can download EndNote Desktop for free through the University site licensing arrangement.


Not sure which reference manager to choose?

This module will help you decide which tool to use to organise your references. It explores the features of three popular reference managers: Endnote, Zotero, and Mendeley.

EndNote reference manager

EndNote is a tool for managing references and bibliographies. Depending on your needs, you can either download EndNote Desktop to your computer or sign up online for EndNote Online.

EndNote will

  • gather, store and manage references
  • automatically create and format bibliographies in your referencing style
  • search and retrieve records from catalogues and databases
  • insert citations directly into documents in your referencing style.

EndNote Desktop

EndNote Desktop is the full version of the EndNote software. We recommend it for researchers, Honours, postgraduates and anyone else who needs to keep track of a large number of references in their research work.

EndNote Online

This is the online version of EndNote Desktop. We recommend it for undergraduates, Vocational Education students and anyone who needs to use a small number of references in their assignments.

Help and training

Learn how to use EndNote with our EndNote: a beginner’s guide or explore other online tutorials, webinars and discussion forums for help and tips.

Mendeley reference manager

Mendeley is one alternative to the EndNote desktop program. Use it to store, manage, and cite bibliographic references, such as books, articles, documents, web pages, artwork, films, sound recordings, bills, cases, and statutes.


Mendeley is compatible with Mac and Windows. 

It is simple to use, you can ‘drag and drop’ files into Mendeley, and the program finds the bibliographic information on the web.

You can import citations (and some full-text articles) directly from many databases and journals, and from other bibliographic management tools, such as Endnote, Zotero and Refworks.

Data is synced across all platforms; when you log into one account it syncs all information, so data won’t be lost. For example, when you log into your desktop version of Mendeley, citations that were added to the online account will be imported to the desktop.

You can create subject folders, groups and tags for articles, and share these with other users.

You can annotate and highlight full-text articles in the library, as well as cut and paste. You can add notes for your own reference to the citation information box and share them with other users in your groups.

Plug-ins for word processors

Mendeley generates citations in much the same way as Endnote, via a plug-in installed in the word processor (MS Word, OpenOffice and LaTeX) or from the bib manager program.

Referencing styles supported

There are many inbuilt standard referencing styles, as well as the ability to search and import a custom reference style.

Storage limits

With a free web-based Personal Mendeley account, each user receives 2 GB of storage for personal documents, and 100 MB for shared web storage. More information: What do I get with a free Mendeley account? Additional storage and features are available with the premium Mendeley Institutional Edition. Please see below for access.

Access and downloads

Please note: software cannot be downloaded or installed on RMIT lab computers.

  • Mendeley Reference Manager for MacOS (OSX 10.10 and above)
  • Mendeley Reference Manager for Windows (Windows 7 and above)
  • Mendeley Web Importer - bookmarklet for importing articles, web pages and other documents from search engines and databases directly into your Mendeley library.
  • Mendeley Institutional Edition (MIE) – is the premium Institutional version of your free Personal Mendeley account. MIE gives you an increase in personal and shared storage, and in the number of private groups and collaborators. To access MIE for free, you must use your RMIT e-mail address to either create an account/register (if you do not currently have a Personal account) OR log in (if you already have a Personal account). MIE access will remain free for as long as you are a current student or staff member of RMIT University.
    PLEASE NOTE: Just before you graduate or leave RMIT, please change your RMIT e-mail address to a personal one in your Mendeley account settings. This will ensure you will have continued access to your Mendeley account. Once you leave RMIT, access to the MIE version will cease, and it will revert back to the free Personal version you had.


Help is available from Mendeley’s website, as well as the Library guide to reference managers.

Zotero reference manager

Zotero is as an alternative to the EndNote desktop program. Use it to store, manage, and cite bibliographic references, such as books, articles, documents, web pages, artwork, films, sound recordings, bills, cases, and statutes.


Citations or references (called items) are stored in a folder “My Library”, and you can create sub-folders (called collections). Collections can be set up with Advanced Search function to automatically add new items.

You can assign tags to each item for later retrieval. Items can have notes, files and links attached to them. File attachments, such as PDFs and images, can be opened within Firefox, and other file-types open in external programs. Web pages are attached as links, or snapshots of the page on a particular date.

When searching the Internet, you can add items (including PDFs when available) to ‘My Library’ by clicking on the ‘Capture’ icon on the Zotero toolbar or add items manually.

One of the main features is the ability to create and join research groups on a specific topic. Each group can share its own research library, complete with files, bibliographic data, notes, and discussion threads.

Plug-ins for word processors

Plug-ins are available for Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.

In-text citations, footnotes and endnotes are all supported. Zotero can insert citations and bibliographies into any text field or program. Simply drag-and-drop items, and use ‘Quick Copy’ to send citations to the clipboard, or export them directly to a file.

Bibliographies are automatically generated and styles can be changed at any time.

It can be used with Google Docs, but at the moment (November 2011) there is no way to get an automatically updating bibliography in a Google Document.

Referencing styles supported

Zotero supports 1,767 styles, including APA 6th, Vancouver, several versions of Chicago and Harvard. New citation styles can be created and added to this list. A full list of Zotero styles is available.

Storage limits

Each user gets 300 MB of free storage for attached files, with larger storage plans available for purchase.

Access and downloads

Please note: software cannot be downloaded or installed on RMIT lab computers.

Websites transfer their data to Zotero through ‘translators’. There is a list of the compatible sites, which includes Pub Med, Scopus and EbscoHOST and many library catalogues. You can capture book records from LibrarySearch into Zotero. Make sure that sufficient details are captured. When tested in May 2013 you cannot capture article records.


Help is available from Zotero’s website.

Reference generators

Are you working on a short assignment that will need a few references only? Then try using one of the free online reference generators instead of the a reference manaager, such as EndNote.

Why use online referencing generators:

  • Can format references in most popular styles
  • Let you copy and paste the references into your bibliography or reference list
  • You can use them in a browser.

If you decide to try one of these tools for your RMIT assignment, remember:

  • Use them for APA, Vancouver, MLA and Oxford styles only. RMIT has its own version of the Harvard style, so for this style it is safer to use our Easy Cite.
  • They can generate full references, but most can't help you with in-text citations.
  • They lack advanced features available in EndNote and other bibliographic management tools.
  • You might not be able to download bibliographic records from LibrarySearch and the databases. If this option is available, you will need to check the records for any errors that need correcting.
  • Don't submit your assignment without reviewing the references first. Online generators are error-prone, so always check the list of references they produce.

Here are some examples of reference generators:

Compare reference managers

We've created a comparison guide to help you choose between the three common reference managers: EndNote, Zotero and Mendeley.

Here are comparisons from external sites:
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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.