InfoIssues: February 2006 | Mansfield Library | The University of Montana-Missoula

The University of Montana Libraries—Missoula

A publication of the faculty of the Mansfield Library at the University of Montana

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To comment on this issue or to suggest an issue, please contact Jennie Burroughs, Chair, Key Constituencies Committee.

Issue of the Month: February 2006

Bibliographic/Reference Management Software

- Kate Zoellner, Assistant Professor
Physical Sciences Librarian

The process of creating a bibliography and citing sources can be the last straw whether you’re an undergrad up late writing a term paper or a faculty member pushing a journal submission deadline. Properly documenting all of the references you use for your research and formatting those references in the required citation style is critical to ensure that you maintain your academic honesty. Unfortunately, it can be time consuming and is often the last item on your “to do” list. Bibliographic management software, also called reference management software, is a tool designed to help researchers build a database or library of their personal research references, which can then be used with word processing programs to automatically format citations and create bibliographies.

Bibliographic management software products were initially designed for, and marketed to, scientists for use on their personal computers. Software producers then expanded and morphed the product to meet the internal knowledge management needs of organizations and corporations. Today, popular products such as EndNote, ProCite, and RefWorks seek to meet the distributed learning and research needs of educational communities by offering both stand-alone and database-integrated subscriptions (both web-based) to research organizations and libraries. (Software publishers sell these same products to individuals.)

Unlike most of the electronic resources that the Mansfield Library subscribes to, a subscription to bibliographic management software does not offer full-text content. Instead, it is a vehicle through which students and faculty can search for content relevant to their research, allowing users to import bibliographic records to create a personalized database. This software supports and aligns with the Association of College & Research LibrariesInformation Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Specifically, it supports two standards:

  • Standard Two, “The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.”
  • Standard Four, “The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.”

For these reasons, the Mansfield Library currently has a trial subscription to RefWorks.

Building a personal library or database and adding references or records—the information necessary to identify and find the original material—to RefWorks, EndNote, or another bibliographic management tool is easy. Users can add records for all material formats to the database--from textual materials, like books or articles, to other formats, like videos, recordings, images, or web pages. Users can search library catalogs or online databases through a software interface and directly import records into their personal database. If users find an error in the imported data, they can edit records. Also, if users want to add a record for a book, article, etc. they cannot locate electronically, they can manually enter the information (e.g., title, author, publication date).

With little effort, bibliographic management software users can access the personal references in their database while writing papers and automatically insert them into word processing software as citations. Users can also create footnotes, endnotes, or bibliographies, formatted in the citation style of their choice (e.g., APA, Chicago, MLA). This feature is particularly handy for researchers using the same references for multiple papers, papers that may require different citation styles. It is best for users to create their database before beginning to write their paper in order to realize the full potential of these products. While this is not necessary, it can speed work flow, as references can be added after quoting text or summarizing another’s ideas, which is simpler than writing an entire paper or article and then needing to go back through it to find where (and which) references should be added.

To create your personal library or database and to ease the frustration of formatting citations and your bibliography, try RefWorks through the Mansfield Library’s trial subscription, and let us know what you think via email.

If you have specific questions about EndNote, feel free to contact librarian Steve McCann ( For specific questions about RefWorks, feel free to contact librarian Kate Zoellner (

To learn more about bibliographic/reference management software, try these links:

Using EndNote with Library Catalogs and Databases, Mansfield Library Guide

Personal Bibliographic Software, from Biblio Tech Review (includes reviews)

How Do I Choose Which Bibliographic Management Software to Use?, from the University of Virginia Health Sciences Library

To comment on this issue or to suggest an issue, please contact Jennie Burroughs, Chair, Key Constituencies Committee.