Bibliographic management

A research thesis demands that you read and record a great deal of information in print and electronic form. As you progress through your research, you will gather hundreds or even thousands of references that you will need to cite and acknowledge in your writing. You must have a system to record, store and easily retrieve these references, and it is important that you establish this system early in your research.

Bibliographic management tools are designed to assist researchers to track and recall references to relevant literature. Most bibliographic management tools also allow you to automate in-text citations and automatically populate a bibliography at the end of your document. Correctly using a bibliographic management tool will save you a significant amount of time with writing your thesis, and formatting papers for publication. This section introduces you to common bibliographic management tools.

Bibliographic management software

Certain bibliographic management tools are more appropriate for specific research needs. There are a range of web-based open source tools; some will also provide mobile interfaces. Most of the common tools will allow you to save, share and access your reference lists on multiple platforms and devices. Wikipedia also has a comparison entry on the major different software available, including Papers, RefWorks and CiteULike. QUT Library has a guide to bibliographic management software that discusses the strengths and weakness of several options including EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero and BibTeX, which are the most commonly used tools at QUT. Additionally, the Research Students Community Site has a number of resources on how to use EndNote.


QUT has an institutional licence for EndNote. This licence permits current staff and students to download the software to personal computers and devices and to use the software at university, the workplace and at home. EndNote works with MS Word.

Endnote is fully supported at QUT. QUT Library conducts workshops throughout the year, and your Liaison Librarians can provide individual assistance with setting up your Endnote library. HiQ provides assistance with installation and technical issues and the library runs EndNote Essentials workshops.

To use Endnote:

Watch the video: How to Use EndNote in 5 Minutes: Windows (YouTube video, 5m01s)

Watch the video: How to Use EndNote in 6 Minutes: Macintosh (YouTube video, 5m19s)


Zotero is a free to use referencing management software tool, it helps you keep your library of sources organised and assists in collecting, storing, and citing those sources.

You can also install the Zotero Connector browser extension to let your browser automatically sense content as you browse the web and to save it to Zotero with a single click.

Further information on how to use Zotero can be found on the Research Students Community site.


Mendeley is a free to use software which enables you to collect bibliographic references, organise your citations, and create bibliographies as you write. The Mendeley Desktop client integrates with your account in the Mendeley web-based repository.

Groups of authors can collaborate using Mendeley. Researchers can share references online, in public or private groups, and search for papers in the Mendeley group database of over 30 million papers.

Mendeley is also an academic social network where you can showcase your research. Mendeley can help you connect with other scholars and the latest research in your subject area.

Further information on how to use Mendeley can be found on the Research Students Community site.


BibTeX is a text-based file format used to describe and process lists of references, mostly for LaTeX documents. A formatted BibTeX file can be converted to a bibliography of any format, using a third-party converter of some kind.

BibTeX allows you to store references in an external, flat-file database which can be linked to any LaTeX document. References in the database can then be cited in the document.

BibTeX is best suited for formatting bibliographies in technical documents, including complex mathematical formulas.

Further information on how to use BibTeX can be found on the official BibTeX website.

Activity – Use a bibliographic management tool to start a library

Decide what bibliographic management tool to use. If you already know what you want to use or are already using one that you are happy with, go to step 5. Otherwise, follow the process below:

  1. Find out what your supervisor or research student peers use to manage their references.
  2. Ask them why they use that particular tool and see if it matches your own needs.
  3. Refer to QUT Library's guide to referencing software.
  4. Install the bibliographic management tool you have chosen.
  5. Import references into your bibliographic management tool to create a reference database.
  6. Choose the bibliographic referencing style appropriate to your thesis.
  7. Insert an in-text citation with your bibliographic management tool.