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Newcastle University

University Library

Subject support guide

Your subject-specific guide to using library resources.

Library Search

Managing Information

As you collect lots of references, you’ll find keeping track of them all can be a real nightmare. Luckily, there’s a lot of useful tools to help. Let’s check them out…

Managing references

Keeping a record of the information you find so that you can use and reference it later is an important academic skill to master. If you’re writing an assignment or report, you’ll probably get away with manually recording your references. You can save them in a document, a note-taking app, or on Microsoft Word’s built-in Referencing tab – whatever works best for you. 

However, if you’re planning to write a detailed essay, dissertation or thesis, you may want to consider dedicated reference management software instead. So what do referencing tools do? Read on to find out more…

  Check out our Managing references video to get started...
 

What do referencing tools do?

Referencing tools allow you to build and maintain your own library of references. There are a variety of tools available, all of which differ in complexity - there are some that will give you a simple, formatted reference to copy and paste into a document, others are web based tools that sit as a plug-in on your browser, and some are desktop apps that provide not only a reference, but a way to organise and manage the information you collect and read. 

The more advanced of these referencing tools, called reference management software, allow you to enter reference information manually or import references directly from your subject databases. They can even help you import a reference directly from Library Search, Google Scholar and subject databases, which is a real time-saver.

Once you’ve saved a reference, you can attach a PDF copy of the cited resource for future use. If you don’t have a copy, your referencing software can find and attach the full text for you – assuming it’s available and you have permission to access it. You can also attach websites, images and other media files if you wish, or attach your own personal notes about the reference and why it’s useful. You can then rely on these notes to help you avoid accidental plagiarism.

Another important feature of reference management software is its ability to output references in any style you like, from Harvard at Newcastle to Vancouver, IEEE, OSCOLA, or any other – the software handles all of the formatting for you.

Simple Reference Management Tools

Library Search cite feature

One of the simplest tools you can use to help keep track of the information you find and prepare a reference list, is to use the citation feature you find in search tools such as Library Search, Google Scholar and subject databases on the Proquest and EBSCO platforms. 

The feature will allow you to copy a formatted reference to use on your reference list or bibliography. You will have the option to format the reference in a number of common styles. However, always use these references with caution - you will often find inconsistencies with your chosen style, errors or missing details. The feature can only create the reference from the information available in the record, and this will result in some errors.

Screenshot of Library Search cite function

When using any reference management tool, be sure to allow yourself time to manually check the citations and references before you submit your work. 

Cite Them Right

Cite Them Right is an online guide (also available in print) designed to help students understand the importance of referencing accurately. It can be used to help cite and reference just about any source, in many of the styles you need. The Harvard at Newcastle style that is used across the University is based on the guidance in Cite Them Right. 

While Cite Them Right won't generate the reference for you, the website includes a you try feature on the source pages, which enables you to easily construct your own reference by replacing the example text with information relevant to your source.

ZoteroBib

ZoteroBib is a simple referencing tool that helps you build a reference list without creating an account or installing any software. Paste in a website URL, book ISBN, article DOI, PMID or search by title, and you will be able to copy a formatted reference list to the clipboard to paste into your document. 

Video: ZoteroBib?


Watch our introductory video demonstrating ZoteroBib.

Other free tools to explore

There are many free and simple referencing tools to choose from and you might also these tools useful:

There are many referencing tools you might hear about including EndNote, RefWorks, Mendeley, Zotero, Qiqqa or BibTeX. Each offers slightly different features but they all work in much the same way. Which one you use is up to you as you will need to judge your need based on the task you are completing, but we recommend you speak to your friends, colleagues and faculty to see what they would advise too.

Reference Management Software

Taking the time to explore different reference management software before you begin your research can help make sure that you've selected the tool that will work best for you. To help you make your decision, start by taking a look at our reference management tools comparison table below.  Our quick guides will then help you set up an account and find help information.

There are also other tools and software available, so you may want to explore further if this selection is not right for you.

EndNote

EndNote is a desktop and online application for storing and managing references. As well as finding and collecting reference data and full-text PDFs, it can help make your academic life a little easier by creating bibliographies and inserting citations into your documents as you write. It’s also supported by Newcastle University and is free to all staff and students.

Mendeley

Mendeley is a free web and desktop reference manager and academic social network that can help you to organise your research, collaborate with others online and discover the latest research. Mendeley is owned and developed by Elsevier (same company that owns and develops Scopus, ScienceDirect etc.)  

Zotero

Zotero is a free, open source reference management tool that allows you to collect, cite, organise and share your bibliographic research data. It is run by an independent, non-profit making organisation and is web based.

BibTeX

BibTeX is reference management tool which is widely used with documents created in LaTeX and is common in science, computing and engineering disciplines.

Cite while you write

Of course, your references aren’t much use locked up in your personal library – you need to get them out and into your text. This is where the magic happens; referencing tools let you “cite while you write”, inserting citations and building reference lists as you go. To do this, they use plug-ins for popular word-processing programs like Microsoft Word. And once a reference is inserted it will be kept up-to-date automatically as you edit your work. Simple!