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STEM Graduate Student Research

An introduction to the research process and useful tools for Penn State STEM graduate students.
See also General Library Services for borrowing, InterLibrary loan and course reserves

Managing Citations

When working on extensive research projects, you will need to collect, organize and format all the various materials (articles, books etc.) that will be used in the final project. 

Citation Managers are tools that help you keep track of, and organize, this personal research library. They allow you to:

  • Capture and store references as you search library databases, google, and save PDFs
  • Re-find those references by searching your own collection
  • Make notes about those references
  • Integrate with MS Word to quickly create in-text citations and bibliographies in the style that you need (thousands of styles are available!)

Learning a specific citation manager is an investment of time, but it will pay off in the long run!

Below are basic how-to guides for the citation managers we support at Penn State.

Penn State also has access to a "lite" version of Refworks, but it is not recommend because of a lack of the advanced functionality needed by graduate students and researchers.

Citation Tools Comparison Chart

Choosing between Zotero, Mendeley, and EndNote

These popular citation managers all provide the same basic features and functionality with a few exceptions and some features specific to particular tools. Use the chart below to narrow down your choices, the rest is personal preference.  Talk to people in your department – some disciplines tend to use one tool more than others.

Citation Manager Comparison Chart
Criteria Zotero Mendeley EndNote EndNote Basic
Web based? Can sync with online account; connectors for Firefox, Chrome and Safari and Opera available Not primarily, but can sync with an online account which is editable Yes, with EndNote basic account Yes
Must be online? No No No Yes
Cost Free for basic account, some cost for more online storage space Free for basic account, some cost for more online storage space $$, Student discount through computer store Free  
Word-processor compatibility MS Word, Open Office, Google Docs MS Word, Open Office, LaTex MS Office, Open Office, iWork Pages MS Word
Import from databases Yes Yes Direct export from specific databases Yes
Import citation info from web pages Yes, also archives the page and you can add annotations Yes, with a bookmark for a limited number of sites (mostly publishers or databases) Yes, with Web Capture tool and EndNote basic account Yes, with Web Capture tool
Storage capacity Unlimited local storage and data syncing; 100MB free Zotero file syncing (larger syncing plans available for purchase); or can use WebDav Unlimited local storage and data syncing; 1GB personal and 100MB shared online space (larger online storage plans available for purchase) Unlimited local storage Limited to 50,000 citations and 2 GB of attachment storage
Attach associated files (PDFs, etc.) Yes, with option to attach automatically Yes, and can highlight and annotate PDFs Yes, and can highlight and annotate PDFs Yes
Search full text of PDFs Yes Yes Yes No
Create group or shared libraries Yes Yes, free for up to 3 group members (larger group plans available for purchase) Yes, with EndNote basic account Yes
Create bibliography with different styles Yes Yes Yes Yes
Automatic citation extraction from PDFs Yes Yes Yes No
Other features Sync library with multiple computers
Use tags to organize/search
Sync library with multiple computers
Sync with Zotero library
Insert figures and charts using word processor integration