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Reference Management Tools: Home


Over the course of your studies you will collect, read and review a large body of literature and information in various formats. Keeping track of the literature you encounter can be facilitated by using a reference manager. An efficient reference management workflow simplifies the academic writing process.

A reference manager (also known as citation managers) is the software you use to handle references and full-text documents, and citations while writing. References can be handled manually as well, but the reference manager allows for greater flexibility and efficiency.

Disciplines vary in how references are written and consequently in how references are managed. Therefore, some reference managers may be preferred within your discipline. Other factors are personal preferences and work style. Choose a reference manager that adapts easily to your way of working and lets you establish an efficient workflow.

There are several reference managers to choose from. Unisa officially supports Mendeley and RefWorks.

A modern reference manager can store both a reference and an accompanying full-text version of the referenced work. Your reference manager can thus function as your own research library directly in your computer and gives easy access to your literature.

Make a habit of storing all useful references to research literature as you come across them. This practice will save time later when you are writing.

Building your reference collection can be done in several ways and you will probably use them all at some point.

  • Enter the reference manually – this is mostly done for older material not readily available online, especially books and grey literature

  • Transferring from reference databases (e.g. Web of Science, EbscoHost) and websites

  • Downloading a reference at the journal home page

  • Downloading references from Google Scholar

  • Pulling reference data from the PDF of the article

Always check references for accuracy; proofreading references directly saves time later and allows you to focus on writing when you use the reference.

Useful features of reference managers is that references can be organized in different ways within the reference manager database, format a bibliography in a variety of styles (e.g. APA, Harvard, Chicago), and work with word processing software to facilitate in-text citations.

When working in a networked environment, sharing literature and references with supervisors, fellow students and colleagues should be easy. A reference manager may facilitate effective sharing.

Social media allow for sharing of references with researchers outside your closest circles, providing opportunities to find new and interesting research literature and to make new contacts.