The citation style you should use depends on a variety of factors, including your field of study and whether your writing is intended for a particular purpose or specific publication. Students should consult with their professors and/or advisors to determine which style they are expected to use for a particular assignment, thesis, or project.
For more information about specific citation styles please see the following Research Guides:
MLA Style Guide (Eighth Edition)
MLA Style Guide (Seventh Edition)
Here are some thoughts about choosing a tool. There is no "best" tool, only one that is good for you at your current level of use and skill.
|I'm new to citing and citation management tools.||The MS Word feature is easy to use and doesn't require accounts or downloads. Try the online citation generators or use the citations given within the library databases to get a start on your citations.|
|I'll need to use my citation tool totally offline sometimes.||The MS Word feature is completely contained within MS Word. All you need is the document file; no accounts or downloads are required. Mendeley is completely functional offline. Zotero also has a "standalone" offline version. Endnote Web has a "travelling library" of citation used within a Word document, but you can't add a new citation to a document unless you are online.|
|I use a mobile device.||
Endnote Web has a good iPad app (usually $3.99, but it does go on sale sometimes). Zotero has a number of apps for iOS and Android. Mendeley's iPad app is free, but only supports searching and viewing, not adding new citations.You can add a "bookmarklet" to your mobile browser.
Zotero supports "bookmarklet" functionality for adding new citations via mobile browsers.
|I want a tool that works directly with my word processor.||Endnote Web, Mendeley, and Zotero all have plugins for MS Word (2007+) for both Windows and Mac. (The Endnote plugin has a few glitches on Macs, but nothing crucial.) Mendeley and Zotero also support Open Office. All tools allow citation formating within the tool, so the citations can be cut and pasted into anything.|
|Can I import citations from the web, databases, and Google Scholar?||All the tools allow import via downloaded files, and can extract data from websites using a browser toolbar or bookmarklet. Endnote Web and Zotero support the greatest number of direct imports from databases (no downloads required). Zotero can import multiple citations directly from search results. Mendeley imports best from EBSCO and publishers' websites. Endnote Web allows direct searching and import from library catalogs like Yale and the Library of Congress from within the tool (Zotero can import from web based catalogs.) Zotero and Mendeley can extract citation data from PDF files of articles (good if you already have a collection of articles) and can import by entering ID numbers like DOIs, PubMed IDs, and ISBNs.|
|I'm thinking of publishing articles in journals.||Endnote Web comes with over 3000 citation styles (though the library accounts are limited for convenience--ask about additional styles you might need; we'll be happy to add them.)
Mendeley comes with over 1000 and can import common citation formats.
Zotero comes with 2750 styles and can import more. Styles can be created using style creation tools.
|Can I store my PDFs and other article files?||
Endnote Web gives students 5Gb storage (up to 12 months after graduation); 2Gb as an alum with a free Basic account.
For cloud storage (accessible from any computer) of files, especially large files like dissertations (your own and other people's), a better option might be a Dropbox or other cloud storage account (see Rebecca Hedreen for more details).
|I want to share my citations with classmates, people at work, or my advisor.||Endnote Web allows sharing of folders (called "groups") with any one with an Endnote account. (Endnote Basic accounts are free even without a library subscription.)
Zotero allows the creation of user groups, which can be open or closed (invitation only), publicly viewable or private. Public citations, user groups, and profiles are searchable and browsable by anyone.
Mendeley allows the creation of user groups, open or closed, public or private; small (private) groups can also share files. Public citations, groups, and profiles are searchable and browsable by anyone.
|I want to take notes with my citations.||
Mendeley comes with a PDF viewer that allows annotations and comments, which are attached to the file. Mendeley and Zotero also support text notes attached to each citation record. Endnote Web includes several note fields within each record, and can store files as attachments. In all cases, notes are searchable within the tool, but attached files may not be.
|I use multiple computers.||To use the MS Word bibliography feature, all you need is the Word document, so you can easily transfer it from computer to computer. (Note: the Master List of all citations used in all documents on a particular computer is saved separately, but citations used within one document are saved within the document file and are available anywhere.)
Endnote Web is completely online, except for the plugins for Word and the Internet Explorer and Firefox web browsers. You can use most functions without those plugins.
Zotero can be run from Firefox on a USB drive on both Windows and Mac computers (see Rebecca for details) or installed in several copies of the Firefox web browser. You can also use a bookmarklet in other browsers with the downloadable Zotero program. Note: if your employer has high security procedures, you may not be able to run programs from a USB drive or install plugins without special permission.
You can add citations to Mendeley via the web site, but citation formatting needs to be done from the program on your computer. (You can install it on multiple computers and use the same account.)
|What about after graduation?||
Endnote Web has a free "Basic" account available to anyone. You get less storage for PDFs and fewer citation styles.
You can export your citations in formats that can be read by other citation tools. This also makes a good backup or archive.
|Do I have to use a citation tool?||No, of course not. Single papers and short term projects rarely require anything more than formatting the citations. MS Word and online citation forms do a good job for that. For larger projects, there are many ways to track the articles and other sources that you find and use in your research. (I know lots of people who maintain Excel spreadsheets, for instance.) I do suggest that you find some organizational structure that works for you, however. Just having piles of printouts or folders of downloaded articles will result in lots of duplicated effort and frustration.|
Common Sense dictates that whenever you write something in a paper that is not your own original thought, you should give credit to the person or group who gave you the words or idea.
Style gives you a framework that is consistent throughtout your project within which to show readers where you got the quote or idea and allows people to look at the source you used themselves.
In general, every element in your text that is not original needs a brief in text or footnote citation that corresponds to a full citation that appears in a list of references.
Use your own Common Sense and use the Style that your professor (or publisher) asks you to.
When you cite your sources you:
There are quite a few library research guides listed on the libguides research page
A couple of highlights from librarians' libguide are
APA & MLA Citation Game (really..it's kind of fun)
Written/complied by Cindy Schofield, MLIS, Ed.D; former Buley Library Technical Services Division Head (1999-2018)