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University of Newcastle Library guides

Managing your References:  Introduction to Citation Management

Overview of Citation Management

Citations and References

Firstly you need to understand What Referencing is, How it can be done and Why it's needed.

Fundamental to the understanding of Referencing is the structure of a Citation and a Reference. A sound knowledge of this is compulsory before any Citation Management System (CMS) is used. A commonly held misconception is that a CMS will "do all of the work for you" 


A Citation usually consists of an "in text" representation of an Information Source (Book, Book Chapter, Journal article, etc.) used within a body of text such as an essay. The way a citation will appear (eg: Smith, 2015) depends directly on the type of Referencing Style you are using eg. APA


These are a complete collection of Information Sources cited within your essay or document. These will usually take the form of a reference list at the end of the document or essay. The way this list appears depends on the Referencing Style you are using.

Elements of a Citation/Reference

All Citations and References, regardless of Source (Book or Journal Article) or Type (Print or Electronic) are comprised of various parts. At minimum these parts will be:

Author(s), Title and Year of publication.

The sort of information required in your Citation and Reference will also heavily depend on the Referencing Style (APA, Harvard, etc.) you are using.


In an increasingly electronic environment either the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) are required when recording information for electronic items (Webpages, Ebook, Online Journal Article, Online Report etc.)

For information on DOIs, such as how to use them and why they're needed in citations, see What are DOI's?

Please see our guide on Referencing your information sources​. This guide will help you to reference electronic and print-based material 


This Type of reference represents different physical sources (Print Books, Print Journal Articles etc.)  and requires similar information to the Electronic source (except no URL or DOI).

Introduction to Citation Management

Citation Management is a method of Collecting, Organising and Using Citations. This can be achieved by: 

  1. Using a UON Library recommended Citation Management System (CMS). The UON Library strongly suggests using a CMS see Zotero, Endnote Online or Mendeley
  2. Your own personal system of Collecting, Organising and Using both Citations and References (eg. A collection of Word documents, Notepad files, Copy/Paste, etc)

Option 2 is suggested when:

  • You write few essays  
  • You don't have many References or Citations (less than 15), 
  • You won't require your References for future use
  • You're not required to use a particular type of software known as a Citation Management System.

What is a Citation Management System (CMS?)

A CMS is a piece of proprietary software or a cloud based application that will make the process of CollectingOrganising and Using Citations easier 

Before you choose a CMS there are a few fundamentals that you will need to know.

  1. Understand the difference between a Citation and a Reference (see the Citations and References Tab) 
  2. Understand How a Citation and a Reference are constructed, see the Elements of a Citation Guide.pdf below
  3. Understand Which Style (eg: APA, Harvard, etc.) you will use and How this will affect the way your references look

NOTE: A CMS will construct references with the bibliographic information that you have collected. If the information is incorrect or incomplete then the resultant Reference and Citation will also be.

Each CMS comes with their own specific benefits and drawbacks. The major benefits common to all CMS Programs are:

  • There will be an interactive record of your Citations and Information Sources, commonly known as a Library. 
  • The ability to capture and record the bibliographic information from a variety of sources is quick and effective.
  • Interaction between Word Processors (eg. Word, Pages, Open Office) and your Library makes referencing while writing essays (known as Cite While You Write) easier and quicker. 

There are many different programs to choose from and careful consideration is needed before choosing the right CMS for you.

Choosing the right CMS for you

​Some things to consider when choosing a citation software program:

  • Can I use the program after I finish university?
  • Can other people access the same citation library as I can, so we can work together?
  • Is the program compatible with my operating system and word processing package?
  • Is it suitable for an undergraduate student or a PhD student?
  • Do I need remote access to my reference collection?
  • Do I need to share my reference sets with others? What are they using?
  • Can I transfer my references to another system if I change organisations?
  • Where are my references stored (local drive / specific computer / 'the cloud')?
  • Is the program available on University-owned computers or is it web-based?
  • Which tool do researchers in my discipline tend to use? Does it matter? (Talk to people in your department.)
  • Is there a limit to how many references and PDF's I can store?


UON Recommended Citation Management Systems

Below are four of the CMS that the UON Library suggests.

Each has been assessed for compatibility with UON systems, interoperability between CMS (eg: If you want to move your Zotero library to Endnote in future) and student types. 

Zotero: for Undergraduate and Enabling students

Mendeley: for Undergraduates and Enabling students

EndNote Online: for Undergraduates and Enabling students

EndNote: for Academics, Research Assistants, PhD, Masters or Honours students.

Check the above information provided for each specific CMS to determine the best program.


Need more assistance deciding on the right CMS?

See the Wikipedia page Comparison of Reference Management Software

This page compares the features, compatibility and interoperability of each CMS that is currently available

Also listed below, a few comparison sites from other Universities which may be helpful.

Macquarie University: Bibliographic Referencing Software

QUT: Bibliographic Management Tools

Penn State University Libraries: Choosing a Citation Manager


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UON Library guide to referencing

A tutorial about what
referencing is and how to
get started.