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Nursing: What reference manager to choose?

This guide highlights nursing and related resources and services for the UA community.

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Keeping your References and Notes Organized opens in new window discusses how to choose a reference manager. Also, it discusses three reference managers in-depth, where you choose one of them to try. A reference manager helps you keep your references and notes organized, which will help you when you start writing your paper.

Comparison Diagram

Details are in the Comparison Table

Best to Use When...

This table describes when it is an advantage to use a particular reference manager.
EndNote Basic
  • You are just starting your research
  • You are a Microsoft Word user
  • You mostly use Web of Science and PubMed
  • You already have all your PDFs and you want to search them full text
  • You want to put notes directly on the PDFs easily (need to export if want outside of Mendeley)
  • You use LibreOffice and/or Linux
  • Use your mobile phone much to get references
Zotero and Juris M
  • You need to use Bluebook Style or legal citations
  • Cite many conference papers
  • Use many different websites and databases
  • You use LibreOffice and/or Linux.
  • Can search PDF annotations (with plug-in)
  • Support for many mobile devices

Known Issues

This table lists some problems or disadvantages for reference managers.
EndNote Basic
  • You can't alter or create citation stylesheets
  • The Capture Button does not work well with all partner websites
  • Mendeley Web Importer can't always get the reference information
  • When pulling in a PDF to Mendeley Desktop, information needs edited most of the time, but it is easy to edit
  • It can pull in completely wrong data
Zotero and Juris M
  • When using the Zotero button with your Internet Browser, information needs edited most of the time, but it is easy to edit.
  • Might take extra time to figure out plug-in is needed, but the documentation is excellent

Notes about Accuracy

This table lists some general observations about accuracy of the reference managers.
EndNote Basic
  • Works better with PubMed and Web of Science than other databases requiring the least editing
  • Styles that use abbreviated titles are less accurate
  • Might need to delete some field contents when using Chicago Style
  • In general, most entries need edited
  • Doesn't have as many types as the other managers in this comparison (e.g. sound recording)
  • Can be less accurate for particular citation styles because there aren't enough of the necessary fields for the reference type
  • PDF drag and drop doesn't work well for patents, thesis, and reports
  • Mendeley Web Importer doesn't work well with all websites and databases
Zotero and Juris M
  • Many entries need edited
  • Has the capability to be more accurate for conference proceedings and patents due to additional necessary fields
  • Works well with many websites and the UA Libraries Catalog
  • Works well with databases, such as Hein Online, PubMed, and Academic Search Complete
  • Manual entry is necessary for Lexis and Westlaw

Loading Documents

This table lists the different ways to get references in reference managers.
EndNote Basic
  • Direct export from a database or website (easiest). [e.g. Academic Search Complete and Web of Science]
  • When direct export isn't available, try the following. Choose the one that works best for you.
    • Capture Button works better for some partners than others (easy)
    • Online search in EndNote Basic (easy)
    • Export a file, then import into EndNote Basic (fairly easy)
  • Manual entry
  • PDF drag and drop works best for journal articles (easy)
    • Digital Object Identifier (DOI) button in Mendeley Desktop might add information
  • Mendeley Web Importer opens new window can be used when you don't have the PDF (easy)
  • Can use RIS export or manually entry
Zotero and Juris M
  • Button integrated in Internet Browser (easy)
  • PDF drag and drop (easy)
  • Can use RIS export or manual entry

Comparing Reference Managers

This is table list system requirements, software installation, and some general features.
EndNote BasicMendeleyZotero and Juris M
Can still use after graduationyesyesyes
System RequirementsNot recommended for Linux. For browser compatibility information, go to EndNote Online compatibility opens new window.Mendeley Desktop is compatible with many versions of Windows, Mac, and Linux. Mendeley Web Importer can be used various versions of common browsers. Minimum system requirements for Mendeley opens new window.Available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. The Zotero Connector works for several versions of common browsers. Zotero System Requirements opens new window.
Word processingPlug-in for Microsoft Word.Plug-in for Microsoft Word and LibreOffice.Microsoft Word and LibreOffice. There are numerous plug-ins for Zotero and Juris-M. For more information, use the Zotero tab.
Install softwareNot required, but Cite While you Write plug-in recommended. Capture works better with some partner websites than others. For a list of partners regarding the capture button, go to EndNote Online Help - Capture opens new window.Must install Desktop. Plug-in and the Mendeley Web Importer are recommended.Must install Zotero 5 and the Zotero Connector for your browser. Plug-in for Word or LibreOffice is recommended. For more information, use the Zotero tab.
Use of web version or download softwareNo Desktop versionDesktop and web version work together. You must create a free account on and download Mendeley Desktop.If you want to use Zotero on multiple computers, you will need to create a web account on If you don't save to, you have to back-up your library manually.
Amount of space2GB for attachments and 50,000 references. 2GB300MB, but you could backup your PDFs to dropbox or Google Drive instead.
languagesEndNote Basic interface available in 8 languages. The bibliographies cannot be automatically generated in other languages.The Desktop interface and the Mendeley web interface are only available in English. You can change the bibliography in 50 different languages though.Can import, store, and cite items in any language. You can change the language of the user interface too. For more information, go to supported languages in Zotero documentation. opens new window
Full text search PDFsnoyesyes
Add notes to PDFsnoyes (visible in Mendeley only unless export). Notes in the PDF are not searchable.The plug-in Zotfile makes the notes in PDFs searchable.
ADA compliantThere is a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) for the full version of EndNote; however, all functionality for the web portion is listed as not applicable. There is not evidence that it was tested by the vendor. Go to accessibility information from vendor opens new window.There is a VPAT from Elsevier (PDF), opens new windowbut that is no replacement for testing yourself.No VPAT from vendor, the Zotero Forums have information about screen readers opens new window.
Versions of StylesMany citation styles. We can only choose 25 at a time because the library subscribes to Web of Science. Once you graduate, you might have access to 21 styles only.Thousands of citation styles with the two latest edition of APA, Chicago, and MLA.Thousands of citation styles can be downloaded from the Zotero Style Repository opens new window. There are multiple editions of common styles.
SharingCan share folders with other EndNote Basic users giving them read or read/write privileges.Can create one private group with two additional users with a free account. Can create unlimited public groups, but can't include PDFs.Zotero groups has no limit on how many members may join your public or private groups. For more information, go to Zotero groups opens new window.
Searching external database directlyyesnono
Technical supportMuch of the online material is for those that purchase EndNote, so look for EndNote Basic first. There is support available. For more information, go to Endnote Online Guide opens new window. Mendeley has a support center. opens new windowDocumentation and forums on Zotero's website. Some universities have how-to pages and/or videos on YouTube.

Bierce Librarian

Marilia Antúnez's picture
Marilia AntĂșnez
I'm happy to make an appointment to meet with you via MS Teams, WebEx, or phone. To book an appointment, please go to
University Libraries
The University of Akron
Bierce Library
Akron, OH 44325