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Citations and Reference Management: Home

A guide on citation styles, reference management systems, and managing bibliometric information.

Citation and Reference Management

A hand holding up a sign that says citation needed in the style of Wikipedia.Why use citations?

Citations are how researchers and scholars across the world give credit to others' ideas, link their research to others' research, and create a wider community of connected scholarly output that is easily traceable and accessible by future users. Plus, using citations for non-original ideas protects researchers from accusations of plagiarism or stealing. To be published in a research journal or to have your work shared on a wide scale, it is important that you cite all works that you reference and do so correctly.

Image credit: futureatlas.

Why use citation managers?

Citation managers, also known as bibliographic managers, take a lot of the work out of creating citations by saving cited work in one place, putting together bibliographies for any citation style, and managing resources across multiple databases and with a group of people. These managers can be integrated into your current work flow and be inserted into your existing word processors, browsers, and desktops. Many of them are free to use or, for LANL employees, can be obtained through LANL's Electronic Software Distribution (ESD) center. Contact your manager before installing any of these programs onto your LANL issued devices.

The three major reference managers are EndNote, Mendeley, and Zotero. Other reference management software does exist, including RefWorks and SciWheel. Video tutorials for these programs can be found below. Many of them are free to use or, for LANL employees, can be obtained through LANL's Electronic Software Distribution (ESD) center. Contact your manager before installing any of these programs onto your LANL issued devices.

Video Tutorials:

Comparing The Top 3 Citation Managers
  EndNote Mendeley Zotero
Cost Basic is free; full version is $250. Free license is available to LANL employees through ESD. Free for up to 2 GB of storage; costs to upgrade. Free for 300mb web storage; various upgrades are available with paid subscriptions.
Word Processor Integration Yes, with Microsoft Word, with the EndNote desktop installation. Yes, with Microsoft Word, if Mendeley Desktop is installed. Yes, with Microsoft Word, LibreOffice/OpenOffice, and Google Documents.
Citation Style Outputs AMA, APA, Chicago, MHRA, Turabian, Vancouver (complete list at EndNote Style Finder). AMA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, IEEE, MHRA, MLA, NLM, Nature, Vancouver (complete list at Mendeley CSL). AMA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, IEEE, MLA, Nature, Physics Letters, Vancouver (complete list at Citation Style Guide).
Collaboration Options Can create groups and use Library Sharing to share and collaborate on cited materials. Can invite colleagues and create groups to share and collaborate on cited materials. Can create shared libraries and groups with other users to share and collaborate on cited materials.
Cite From Popular Academic Databases Yes, citations can be exported directly to the manager. Yes, citations can be exported directly to the manager. Not directly, but citations can be exported in Zotero-acceptable formats (e.g. BibTeX, RIS).
Search In Popular Academic Databases Yes, by using the Online Search function. Yes, with the Literature Search function in Desktop. No, there is no built-in database searching function with Zotero.
Works With BibTeX/RIS Yes; it can import BibTex and RIS formats. Yes; both imports and exports in BibTeX and RIS formats. Yes; both imports and exports in BibTeX and RIS formats.
Open Source No; proprietary software owned by Clarivate Analytics. No; proprietary software owned by Elsevier. Yes; covered by Affero General Public License for free software.


How to import citations into your reference manager:

First, to import any citation into a reference manager, you will either need to 1) export a citation or 2) use a web browser-based application that automatically sends a citation into your reference manager's desktop library.

If using a web browser-based app like EndNote Web, all you need to do is, when on the page of the material you want to save, click on the app icon located in your browser's tool bar and tell the app to save the available information. You can also save a screenshot of the page or a PDF, depending on the service used and if the PDF is actually available to download (some databases only provide citations and not full text).

Every database with material to cite has a way to export a citation. Below are examples from IEEE Xplore and Scopus. In both examples, the article has a visible export button, which may say 'export' or will be indicated by a downward arrow. Once you click on the export button, you should be able to specify your file format and the specific information you want to export before saving any files. RIS format is accepted by all three major reference managers. BibTeX is also accepted by all three major reference managers, and depending on the database may or may not be saved into a separate text file for easy import.

Exporting an article from IEEE Explore.

Exporting a citation from Scopus.


  • In EndNote, go to File > Import > File. Next to Import File, click on the Choose button. Go to the folder where you saved your exported citation, click on the file, and then select Open. In the drop-down menu next to Import Option, select the file format of the imported citation (RIS, ISI, etc) and click the Import button. The citation should be imported into your current EndNote library, under Imported References. You can click on All References on the left sidebar to see the new citation in your EndNote library.


  • In Zotero Standalone, click on the gear icon and click on Import. Go to the folder where you saved your exported citation, click on the file, and then select Open. The citation should be imported into your current Zotero library.


  • In Mendeley Desktop, go to File > Add Files. Go to the folder where you saved your exported citation, click on the file, and then select Open. The citation should be imported into your current Mendeley library.

For all citation managers, always double-check to make sure the metadata of your cited material has transferred over completely and accurately. Also, you may need to manually add PDFs to citations if you want the two linked in your manager.

A series of reference books for various citation styles. Photo by by fixedandfrailing at Flickr.

Creative Commons BY-SA license logo. Original photo taken by fixedandfrailing.

There are many field and publication specific citation formats out there. Below are some of the most commonly used for researchers. Be sure to double check with any publication you are considering submitting to if they have a particular citation style they prefer.

A standard citation should include definite information identifying the work being cited. This can include a work title, an author/authors' names, the year of publication, and the journal/magazine/newspaper it was published in. It can also include the names of editors, file formats, a web URL or DOI (if an online resource), a publisher's name, and page numbers if a specific range of pages is being cited from a larger work.

Example Citations:

Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. Knopf, 1994.

This citation identifies the author, the title of the work, the publisher of the work, and the year it was published. This citation is in MLA format.

Fuegi, J., & Francis, J. (2003). Lovelace & Babbage and the creation of the 1843 “notes.” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 25(4), 16–26.

In this example, we are given a persistent identifier in the form of a DOI link, a journal name plus volume and issue number, and a page range. This citation is in APA format.

Circular ORCiD ID icon.

What is an ORCID?

ORCID is a persistent digital identifier that distinguishes you from other researchers. It is integrated with key research workflows such as grant submission and automatically links you to your professional activities and scholarly publications. ORCID ensures that your work is recognized.

Many publications now require authors to have an ORCID set up and active. LANL is currently working with ORCID to make sure lab researchers have the right tools to set up their own ORCID account; LANL employees can visit ORCID @ LANL to register a new ID or to connect an old ID with their current LANL affiliation.


  What is a DOI?

A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is a persistent and unique identifier used mainly to identify journal articles, research reports, and data sets. A DOI will always point to a single, specific resource. Citations should include DOIs whenever possible.

Note: a DOI can help you locate an item, but it may not give you access due to copyright and subscription issues. If you need to share an article with researchers at other institutions, double-check to see if the article's authors have made this article available as a pre-print or through an institutional repository (such as Los Alamos Research Online), which can bypass issues with possible paywalls and limited institutional access.

How To Prevent Link Rot:

One issue with capturing citations of digital-born resources is that over time those resources will disappear due to a number of factors, including websites closing, files being lost, and hosts changing servers without updating existing links.

There are some ways to combat what is being called 'link rot'. Doing one or several of these steps will help keep your research accessible and sustainable.

  • Always provide a DOI or other persistent identifier when citing a digital item, so the research and the identifier will always be linked to one another.
  • Use a program like Zotero's Snapshots, which takes a snapshot of a web page at the moment of import, and can be accessed on or offline.
  • The Memento Project, whose foundations are at the LANL Research Library, creates access to past, archived versions of web resources. For information on combating reference rot, see our guide on robustifying your links to online resources.

Managing Citations With Los Alamos Authors:

With the Los Alamos Authors repository, you can export any entry as a citation for a reference manager, including as a BibTeX or RIS file. For more instructions on the bibliographic tools available through the Authors website, see the services/tools how-to section of the site's help page (LANL only page, requires cryptocard access).

Alternative Reference Managers:

There are many reference managers out there besides Zotero, Mendeley, and EndNote, some of which are discipline specific and may be more useful for your own research purposes. For more information, there is a comparison chart of known reference management software.

LANL employees: check with your OCSR before installing any software on Lab computers.


To request help on any of these features--importing citations, organizing references, creating bibliographies--see our Training page (LANL only page, requires cryptocard access).

For general guidance on citations, research and writing, visit Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL). The University of New Mexico provides a list of off-campus editing services for more in-depth, one-on-one assistance, with a preference towards current university students.

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