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Bibliographic management

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The best way to keep track of your references is to keep a record of the articles you have read. Reference management tools help you to organise your references and automatically generate reference lists or bibliographies in a variety of styles. Bibliographic management is another term used to describe these tools and their use. For more general guidance on referencing see Referencing and plagiarism.

Selecting a reference management tool

If you are going to keep records of large numbers of references then it will be worthwhile investing time in selecting and learning how to use a tool. This Selecting a reference management tool activity will help you evaluate which tool might meet your needs.

While The Open University does not endorse a particular product, or provide support for their use, there are several tools to choose from. Many are web-based and free.

Bibliographic management tools

EndNote Basic is entirely web-based and allows you to store, manage and share your references, cite sources and write your papers. It is a simpler, free version of the commercial tool Endnote Desktop. (Please disregard the 'Sign in via your institutional login' option on the 'Sign In or create an account' page.) If you need more styles, log in to Web of Science, create an account and then access Endnote via the My Tools menu. These account details should be used whenever you access Endnote Basic.

Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that is fully searchable with capacity for reading and annotating PDFs on any device. It is available as web-based or as a standalone desktop version.

Zotero is a free bibliographic software extension for Firefox. It is also available as an extension for Chrome and Safari browsers, and as a standalone desktop version.

The Comparison of reference management software produced by Wikipedia has further examples of reference management tools and may also assist you with your decision.

Tools for purchase or subscription

EndNote is desktop software that can organise, store and manage references, create bibliographies automatically and directly import references from databases (e.g. Web of Science) and library catalogues. The EndNote software is available for on-campus users and those based at the OU regional centres through the IT department. To request EndNote please raise a ticket via the IT Self Service system. If you are not on campus you can purchase EndNote at a discounted rate, remembering to use your OU email address.

Help with bibliographic management


Please view the videos on the EndNote Training YouTube channel or contact EndNote technical support.


Please view the videos on the Mendeley YouTube channel or visit the Mendeley Support Center.


Please view the videos on the Zotero YouTube channel, read the Zotero documentation or visit the Zotero forums.


The Library Research Support team provide a basic level of support for EndNote and Mendeley to postgraduate research students and research staff - they may be able to answer simple queries. Please Contact the OU Library Research Support team for more information.

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