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Reference Management

What is reference management?

Research Cycle - Discover logoReference management software allows you to:

  • Collect references and PDFs of papers
  • Organise references
  • Automatically output a bibliography or reference list in whatever referencing style you need e.g. for a thesis, or for journal or book publishing.

Edinburgh Napier offers training and support with Endnote and Mendeley reference management software - use the one which suits your needs best, or choose another reference manager.

See Choosing a Reference Manager to compare software.

Endnote vs Mendeley - Pros & Cons

How do you choose which reference manager to use?
See a list of pros and cons for Endnote and Mendeley below. If you are planning for long-term research like a PhD, take some time to attend training (see the Training and Events Calendar), try out the software or ask your Subject Librarian for advice.


  • Download to 3 different devices ​
  • Library can be synced with Endnote Online
  • Unlimited storage of files and references​
  • Share groups with up to 399 other researchers using Endnote Online

Pros and cons – Why use it rather than Mendeley?

University support Yes
Versions Endnote Desktop (Windows & Mac)  & Endnote Online

On campus computers - Apps Anywhere​
Off campus – Software Download Service

Good for

Well used in health & sciences.​
Best software for systematic reviews and/or large numbers of references.​
Easy exporting from academic databases.​
Automatic syncing between desktop & web versions.​
Collaboration with others via library sharing.

Be aware of

Libraries should not be stored in the cloud.​
The software is not free outside the university.​
Export your data on graduation (very easy to do)


Mendeley is ‘freemium’ online reference management software. With a personal Mendeley account you have a library where you can save and organise citations, adding them to your work as you’re writing and create a references list.

  • Download and install Mendeley Reference Manager to your computer and/or use the web version online.
  • Use the Mendeley Web Importer to easily save items to your library while you are browsing the web.
  • You get up to 2GB storage: for all citations, annotations, pdf files, notes.
  • You can create five private groups to share with others.

Pros and cons – Why use it rather than Endnote?

University support Limited. The University does not subscribe to Mendeley, therefore cannot help with technical queries. Contact Mendeley.
Versions Mendeley Reference Manager (Windows & Mac) and/or use the web version.
Access Free download from the web and/or use the web version.
Good for

Drag and drop PDFs.
Library of references stored in the cloud.
Synchronise changes made in web version and installed version.
Collaborate with others in five private groups (maximum 25 members per group).
Change citation and reference list style in a few seconds.

Be aware Installed the university’s Office 365 on your computer? Can’t install the Cite add-in to Word.
Can’t create a bibliography list and a reference list in the same Word doc.
Storage limit of 2GB.
Make backups of your Library.


Five top tips

  • Look at the reference management software we support, whether they work with your setup, and which referencing guidelines you should use.
  • Talk to colleagues about their experiences with reference management software, how they use it and why they chose a particular product. Subject librarians can also advise.
  • Be aware there will be a learning curve while you explore the software – get training if you can. See the Training & Events Calendar.
  • Reference management software contains many standard academic journal referencing styles. When publishing your research you will be able to make one click edits to fit with the style of the journal(s) you are submitting to.   
  • Always organise your references in a manner that suits you. – Consider using folders,  keywords,  themes, concepts, authors, methodologies, etc. This ensures easy retrieval of all your references when you start writing.