Reference management

On this page you will find tips and tricks on managing your references to literature, data and other sources.

What is reference management?

Reference management is systematically collecting, organising and using references to sources. How to do so in the most efficient way depends on the type of sources you use most frequently and also on your personal workflow and preferences.

Tools for reference management

There are dozens of dedicated reference management tools. The best known and most widely used are:


A free tool useful when you are working with full texts. Learn more about Mendeley in our LibGuides.


A free tool with very good ability to recognise and capture bibliographical data on webpages. Learn more about Zotero in our LibGuides.


A complete tool, licensed by Utrecht University, supported by many search engines and databases. Learn more about RefWorks in our LibGuides.


Also a very complete tool with almost unlimited sharing functions. This tool is licensed by Utrecht University as well. Learn more about EndNote in our LibGuides.

How reference management tools can help you

Reference management tools can help you to:

  • Collect bibliographic data from search engines and databases
  • Save and store full text files such as PDFs
  • Organise references in (smart) folders, use tags etc.
  • Annotate references or full text files
  • Share references or files publicly or privately within a group
  • Cite references

Additionally you may sometimes:

  • Profit from (topical) communities
  • Work on the same document with co-authors
  • Share accounts or make various accounts
  • Perform advanced tasks such as deduplication

Tips to work more effectively

These tips will speed up your work

  1. Learn your way around a dedicated reference management tool if you expect to use more than a handful of references
  2. Use a tool that also supports citing references in your text, especially if you have to write many papers and articles
  3. Always check if the references are imported completely and correctly. In the case of some databases and tools you may have to correct or complete the data.

More information about reference management

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