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Citation Help

Footnotes, references, bibliographies, avoiding plagiarism & more.

Citation Tools

The collection process is integral to the early phases of research – marshalling together relevant information and materials into a kind of research portfolio. One can do this in a number of tried-and-true ways from maintaining a research notebook to shuffling index and note cards, but the real trick to developing a solid research portfolio is to build systematically as you go. 

Citation management tools can help by automating an often tedious process. Citation management tools can be used to capture citation information from an array of electronic records – books in a catalog, articles in a database, pages on the web, and so forth. This allows the researcher to collect bibliographic data as the research process unfolds and to store that data in retrievable form for future reference and use. 

Later, selected items may be pulled together to create a system-generated bibliography. Most citation management tools will accommodate all the major bibliographic styles – APA, Chicago, MLA, Turabian – and a host of subject or journal specific styles, as well. 

One caveat, however…no citation management tool is flawless, and the responsibility for providing accurate citation information rests upon the researcher, not the management tool. Always check to make sure that citations and bibliographies meet both your expectations and the expectations of your research community.

Citation Generators 

Online Reference Managers

There are a number of worthwhile citation management tools which are -- at least in terms of start-up costs -- freely accessible online. 

  • Chief among these, perhaps, is Zotero, which integrates with the Firefox and Chrome web browsers and, therefore, is always at-the-ready. Zotero is easy to use and easy to install, and it offers some fairly high-level functionality for an open-access tool. 
  • Also of note is Mendeley, likewise available as a free-download.  Mendeley seeks to combine citation and research management with features of social networking in the spirit of, say, LinkedIn. Like Zotero, Mendeley originated within the academic community and continues to treat that community as its primary patron base. For most undergraduates, Mendeley may be a bit more than necessary, but it remains a strong option for both professional and nascent researchers.