Reference management tools can be used not only for students and academics or teachers, but start-ups, SMEs, marketers, writers, bid-writers, publishers and research agencies. Basically, anyone who is doing research by reading a lot of content on a particular project or has to keep track of a number of citations and sources and needs to keep all the information and sources in one place. Here are our top 13 reference management tools.

1. EndNote X8 ( EndNote X8 is integrated with ResearcherID, Web of Science and many other online databases and uses over 6000 citation styles. This tool has a library sharing function, that allows users to work together with their team members from one library with the ability to share references, documents and files, it allows for quick searching and collaboration. However, each user must have EndNote, allowing for collaborative, remote working. EndNote allows you to organise and manage your PDFs and search within the text across a number of PDFs. You can manually input your references with the option to import references from certain websites. You can link EndNote with Microsoft Word to insert citations (cite as you write) and create a bibliography. EndNote basic is free and EndNote X8 is £197.38/$249.95 downloaded and for students, price depends on which country you reside in.

2.Mendeley ( This is a free software manager, which has an app and desktop feature. The added bonus of this management tool is the academic social network, with over 6 million users, and the ability to find out about what other academics in the field are reading and to connect with others. The Mendeley Reference Manager allows the user to create a library. Citations and bibliographies can be created in a range of styles, with plug-ins compatible with Word and LibreOffice. It is possible for the user to ‘cite as they write’, annotate whilst reading and organise content. The Mendeley dataset allows research data to be citable, shared and stored. As it is based online, Mendeley is available anywhere and on multiple devices.

3. Refworks (https:/ Refworks allows the user to save an unlimited number of references, full-text and research materials, save references and full-text from webpages, import from online databases and the user’s PC. It can help manage research through providing the tools to organise, search and retrieve, read and annotate full-text documents and sync data to Dropbox. RefWorks allows for sharing and collaboration by enabling full access to resources as well as the tool being integrated into Google Docs. The tool can ‘cite as you write’ by generating bibliographies and citations when adding in authors, it uses a wide range of citation styles and integrates citations in Word and Google Docs. This product is aimed at universities, with researchers having free alumni access through the institution and the costs depend on a number of factors and the university need to contact RefWorks for a quote.

4. Colwiz ( A free reference management software. This software allows searches for references, that can be stored in a cloud, the ability to read PDFs, write and create citations and share citations with contacts.

5.Docear ( This is free software and allows the organisation of literature and annotation of PDFs with a ‘recommender system’ enabling one to find out about other literature in the area.

6.ReadCube ( An impressive piece of free citation management software! There is an abundance that can be achieved with this such as get a full reference list from PDFs, clickable inline references, 1-click author searches with the option to receive daily recommendations about other literature. Readcube Pro for £43.46/$55 per year provides cloud sync and storage, advanced organisation with file management and tagging as well as advanced article metrics.

7.Zotero ( This is free online tool that enables the collection, organisation and synchronisation of citations. It looks a little dated and doesn’t have some of the features that its alternatives have such as an app however, it is very easy to use.

9.Paperpile ( Paperpile is built for Chrome and Google Apps and can be integrated into Google Apps systems. Paperpile has a number of features such as organising, highlighting and commenting on PDFs, a browser add-on to save references, PDFs and data files, sharing tools and a range of referencing styles can be used for making citations. There is a free trial for 30 days, a £2.36/$2.99 per month academic package and £7.89/$9.99 per month business package.

10.Papers ( Papers 3 is designed for Apple products and is free. It allows the user to search across 20+ search engines including PubMed and Scopus, read and organise PDFs, share citations, cite as you go, organise citations, sync and stay connected with personal notes.

11. Quiqqa ( This has a number of features such as customisable web search tabs, PDF speed reader and it can highlight what research papers you could be reading next based on algorithms developed by Cambridge University (called Expedition). Quiqqa has three packages, with 50% off with an educational discount: free, which offers PDF management, Expedition and annotation of reports, £5.27/$6.67 per month, with the ability to create 10 libraries, private intranet read-only syncing, web sharing and shortcuts and £32.91/$41.67 per month for additional free online storage and conversion of MS Word documents to PDF.

12. Citavi ( There is a free package for small projects with up to 100 references and for a Windows business license, this tool is £286.80/$363.43 and there are two versions available for the DBServer: per seat is £334.80/£424.26 and for concurrent use it is £718.80/$910.86 with a student rate of £94.80/$120.13. The features of this tool is that it offers access to databases and library catalogues and use each online resource’s specific search option, which is only available to Citavi. It allows the user to add and manage references as well as integrate PDFs with the ability to evaluate content, organise information and create bibliographies.

13. Sorc’d ( This tool has been cited by Forbes as the ‘Digital Highlighter That Saves You Time’. This product uses a ‘freemium’ model, the basic, free package offers an online account, cloud storage and access to public snippets and the premium package, which is £11.83/$14.99 per month or £98.66/$124.99 per year, and offers the addition of browser add-ons. Sorc’d allows the user to add snippets of information that are of interest with sources automatically built in. The information is highlighted and saved, then held in a cloud-based repository with snippets that are already sourced.

You can also download the app ‘iAnnotate’ ( to write on existing PDFs, as an alternative or addition to help you if the tool you choose doesn’t have this feature.

Happy reference managing!

This blog post was written in 2015 and has been updated.

About the Author formalisedcuriosity

At Formalised Curiosity we help SMEs and public sector organisations better understand their end user through social and market research.

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