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Newcastle University

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Your subject-specific guide to using library resources.

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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. You can enter reference information manually or you can import them directly from your subject databases. You can even import a reference directly from Library Search and Google Scholar, 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 tool 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.


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.

   Check out our EndNote guide for more information

Video: What is EndNote?

Watch our introductory video exploring what EndNote is

Other popular tools you might hear about are RefWorksMendeleyZoteroQiqqa or BibTeX. Each offers slightly different features but they all work in much the same way. Which one you use is up to you, but we recommend you speak to your friends, colleagues and faculty to see what they would advise.

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!