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Reference Management

This resource provides information about the reference management software available to the Teachers College community and guidance for choosing the program that fits your needs.

What is a Reference Manager?


A reference manager is a software that records, manages, and exports reference information for a researcher's information sources. They also have PDF-reading and note-taking functionalities that can simplify a research workflow. Reference managers can also be called bibliographic managers or citation managers.

The three most popular reference managers are Zotero, EndNote, and Mendeley.

All three of these software have the ability to:

  • Ingest reference info and full-text PDFs from the web using a browser extension
  • Create collections of reference information
  • Store and open PDF copies of articles
  • Add notes and highlight/annotate within a PDF
  • create in-text references and bibliography lists in Microsoft Word
  • Export references in a variety of citation styles

Check out the comparison table on this page to see what makes each citation software stand out. Then, explore the pages for each software to learn details on how to download and use the program.

Image credit: University of Sussex

Download Your Reference Manager


Already know which software you would like to use? Click the logo below to download!


                                     Zotero                                             EndNote                                                       Mendeley

Comparison of the Top Three Reference Managers

  Zotero EndNote Mendeley
Details Free (pay for more storage) Free with Columbia institutional credentials Free (pay for more storage)
What makes it stand out
  • Open-source software
  • Non-proprietary, never lose access to your data
  • Only software that is integrated with Google Docs
  • Most established reference manager
  • search library databases directly in the program
  • Unlimited storage
  • Best for pdf viewing and commenting
  • Only 300 MB of storage in free version
  • Forum based support
  • Locally stored database
  • Lose free access without institutional credentials
  • PDFS are only stored locally
  • Encrypts your local database of references
Use if... you value open source principles in software and want to retain control of your citation data. you want a powerful tool that is integrated with the rest of your research ecosystem and can handle large amounts of citations. you are looking for a clean and sleek pdf-reading experience with an easy-to-use interface.