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Systematic Reviews & Other Syntheses


Comprehensive searches for syntheses can retrieve thousands of results. Citation managers (also known as citation management software, reference managers etc.), are available to help you collect, organize, cite and share references.

Benefits of using citation managers:

  • Manage all of your references in one place.
  • Facilitate the removal of duplicate citations.
  • Organize your references into collection folders.
  • Upload and store full-text PDFs and other file types.
  • Share collections with colleagues to collaborate in private or open groups.
  • Generate bibliographies in desired format.
  • Install plug-ins for word processors that allow you to insert citations from the reference manager as you write.

Choosing a Citation Manager

Key questions for choosing a citation manager:


Ease of Use / Usability

  • Do I like the interface? Is it intuitive to me?
  • Do I easily find the functions I'm looking for?

Operating system


  • Which software can I use with my operating system (Linux, Mac, Windows)?
  • Which software offers an online version?
  • Which software offers a mobile version/app?



  • Are there any training courses for beginners?
  • Are there any materials for self training (e.g. videos, manuals)?
  • Is there any support if I need help (library, company, IT hotline, forums etc.)?



  • What external programmes should my reference management software support (e.g. word processor)?



  • Does the software cost anything?
  • Is there a campus licence at my institution (university/company)?
  • Are there potentially additional costs (e.g. after leaving institution, need for more storage space)?

What features should my reference management software offer?

  • Searching for full text?
  • PDF editing?
  • Generating bibliographies?
  • Managing quotes / ideas?
  • Catalogue and database search from within the programme?
  • Indexing and structuring of content?
  • Online access?
  • Sharing and/or jointly editing references?
  • Task planning?
  • LaTeX support?

Where do I usually work?


  • Do I use always the same computer or do I switch sometimes?
  • Do I have permission to install software on the computer I use?
  • What reference management software do my colleagues/collaborators use?

Taken from Universitätsbibliothek der Technischen Universität München (2015). "Answers to many of the following questions can be found in the software comparison document. However, some question will be answered only by testing the programme yourself."

Comparison of Citation Managers

Comparisons of citation managers can be found online and as published journal articles.

Did You Know?

A recent study found that 79.5% of researchers surveyed used some type of reference management software to prepare a systematic review, although only 4.8% actually reported this in their review (Lorenzetti & Ghali, 2013). They also found that "EndNote, Reference Manager, and RefWorks were the programs of choice for more than 98% of authors who used this software" (p. 141).


Homol, L. (2014). Web-based citation management tools: Comparing the accuracy of their electronic journal citations. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(6), 552-557.
Kratochvíl, J. (2017). Comparison of the accuracy of bibliographical references generated for medical citation styles by EndNote, Mendeley, RefWorks and Zotero. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 43(1), 57-66.

Kwon, Y., Lemieux, M., McTavish, J., & Wathen, N. (2015). Identifying and removing duplicate records from systematic review searches. Journal of the American Library Association: JMLA, 130(4), 184-8. 

Lorenzetti, D. L., & Ghali, W. A. (2013). Reference management software for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: an exploration of usage and usability. BMC medical research methodology, 13(1), 141.

​Nilashi, M., Dalvi, M., Ibrahim, O., Zamani, M., & Ramayah, T. (2016). An interpretive structural modelling of the features influencing researchers’ selection of reference management software. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 0961000616668961.
Salem, J., & Fehrmann, P. (2013). Bibliographic management software: a focus group study of the preferences and practices of undergraduate students. Public services quarterly, 9(2), 110-120.

Technische Universität München Library. (2015). Reference Management Software Comparison. 5th update. Available at: (accessed 28 November 2016).