If you are doing a large research project, using reference managing software streamlines your workflow.
Citation managers connect with Microsoft Word, and sometimes other word processing options like Google Docs or LibreOffice, to let you automatically pull a citation, formatted in whatever referencing style you choose, into the proper place in the text, and add it, correctly formatted, into the reference list.
Most programmes also allow you to share some or all of your references and PDFs with someone else, or a group, working with the same citation manager. This can facilitate group research, or can make it easy to share references with a supervisor or colleague.
Many programmes are available, but arguably the four used most by researchers are EndNote, Mendeley, Sciwheel (formally F1000workspace), and Zotero. Each programme has different advantages, and your choice might be influenced by the need to work offline, by what colleagues you need to collaborate with are using, or by price.
Remember that it is easy to move all your reference from one programme to another if you decide you'd like to switch.
|Cost||Subscription||Basic account free||Subscription but free trial (possibly free through your institution)||Free with option to purchase additional storage|
|Offline use||online or offline||online or offline||online||online or offline|
|Annotation of PDFs?||yes||yes||yes||no|
|Word processor||Microsoft Word||Microsoft Word, LibreOffice||Microsoft Word, LibreOffice||Microsoft Word, LibreOffice|
*This chart has been adapted from the Compare EndNote, Sciwheel, Mendeley, Zotero: At a Glance guide from the University of North Carolina Health Sciences Library: https://guides.lib.unc.edu/compare-citation
Each of these programmes have browser plugins that make it easy to collect references, and as you do searches within databases you can export selected references into them.
BEST PRACTICE RECOMMENDATION: choose a citation manager before you start your literature searching, and always save all relevant references you find in your searches. Learn how the program you're using works right away, so you can take full advantage of its functionality.