Adopting reference management software

Compiling a bibliography is an inevitable part of the process of writing an article or a thesis, and it can become a real headache if left to the last minute ("I'll deal with that later when I have time...")!
Managing bibliographical references from the very beginning of the research process, with the appropriate tools, is generally much easier and less time-consuming than you may think – and it is very handy later on.

Choosing your reference management software

The aim of reference management software is to simplify the task of managing references when writing an article or a thesis. It enables you to compile a personal or shared database containing all the references you collect during your research. Later on, when you begin the writing process, the software helps you to format them easily in line with the instructions for authors.

We have created a handy comparative guide of the different reference management software available

The easiest to use and the only completely free reference management software. It can be used to import all document types. But changing styles is relatively complicated, your library can soon become a bit messy.
It is the most widespread open source reference management software.


Resources on the Zotero website


Zotero website

This is the most comprehensive software, even if it is less intuitive than others.

It is one of the oldest commercial reference management programs. It is currently developed by Clarivate Analytics.


Resources on the EndNote website


EndNote website

The first to propose networking features to researchers.

It is freemium software, meaning that it is free of charge but some features can be improved by paying. It currently belongs to the publisher Elsevier.


Resources on the Mendeley website


Mendeley website


Best practices

Ensuring the quality of imported references

The quality of the data you store in your software is essential, and there are several factors that can affect this quality:

  • a poorly configured import filter that saves information in the wrong fields,
  • a loss of information in your library due to unfortunate manipulations,
  • importing early access or preprint article references whose information will change over time.


Mettre en place sa veille bibliographique - Bibliothèque du CeRIS - Institut Pasteur

Le saviez-vous - Bibliothèque du CeRIS - Institut Pasteur

A few best practices may help you avoid these pitfalls:

  • always quickly check the accuracy of imported information (correct fields, complete data, etc.) to prevent errors from setting in and recurring,
  • always make a regular backup of your library, so that you can go back to an earlier version if necessary,
  • use the reference update and de-duplication tools available in the main software packages.


Questions & Answers

Can the library produce my bibliography for me?

We can guide you in formulating your search query and using the various tools available to find relevant references for your bibliography. We can also help you choose and use appropriate reference management software.

I'm lost with all this reference management software. How can I choose the tool that is best suited to my needs?

First of all, take a look at our reference management software comparison guide. And if you are a member of the Institut Pasteur in Paris or the Institut Pasteur International Network, you are welcome to take part in the workshop "Bibliographic tools – hands-on session".




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