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Finding Your Flow with Citation Management Tools: Home

Highlights pros, cons, and special features of Mendeley and Zotero citation managers

Guide Content

This guide is for grad students, faculty, and undergraduates interested in organizing, managing and annotating sources for scholarly projects. Find out about Mendeley and Zotero, two free citation management tools that can integrate with word processors and help curate a variety of source types, including journal articles, books, web sites, and social media.

The time investment to learn and set up these tools has HUGE paybacks for the rest of your career!

Session Outline

  1. Big picture - what citation managers can do
  2. Basic overview - Mendeley
  3. Basic overview - Zotero
  4. Advanced features - Mendeley
  5. Advanced features - Zotero
  6. Hands-on practice and consultation

Questions to Consider

  • Type of materials most often used? Books, articles, web sites, social media, YouTube videos?
  • Foreign Language requirements?
  • Portability to other institutions?
  • Cost?
  • Is there a standard citation manager used in the field?
    • Collaboration: does your work involve grant funded projects, large scale initiatives, or systematic reviews?
  • Workflow? How will you...
    • Annotate
    • Organize
    • Integrate with word processors

Which CM is right for you?

Take a look at York University's Side by Side comparison of Mendely and Zotero.

Mendeley and Zotero: Pros and Cons
Mendeley Zotero
  • Seamless PDF reader inside Mendeley
  • Color highlighting!
  • Social network components, collaboration features for groups (some cost extra)
  • Stats feature for authors
  • Ability to merge duplicate entries
  • Works well with books, web pages, non-article formats
  • Ability to export annotations
  • Foreign language capabilities
  • Open source
  • Extendable through open source plugins, translators, etc
  • Group Libraries (free)


  • Now owned by Elsevier, may not be free forever?
  • Have to wait for Mendeley to make error fixes, add functionality


  • Open source means some plugins may not be supported forever


Top Workflow Strategies

  • Save PDFs to cloud storage of your choice (Google Drive or Dropbox, etc) or pay storage fees
  • Set preferences to automatically rename and sync PDFs
  • Decide how you will annotate, tag, make notes
  • Correct your metadata when you import the article (not via editing the bibliography in Word)
  • Regularly save your library in Bibtex or RIS format to a flash drive as a backup

Sample Items

Ask Your Librarian

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Linds Roberts
Now meeting via Zoom or in-person (Mon/Tues/Thurs).

Ask Your Librarian

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Adam Lisbon

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