Best Citation Software: 10 Top Options For Academics

Are you looking for the best citation software to handle different citation styles? Learn more in this article.

Suppose you are producing academic work, such as a research paper. In that case, you must follow MLA, APA, or Chicago format, use the correct annotations, and present a professional, finished paper or essay. This process includes generating citations. However, it can take a lot of time to type up a reference list that readers can follow and check. 

Enter citation management software. Plenty of reference management software programs are available, and they can save academics and essayists hours. We’ve profiled the best citation software to meet your needs. 

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The best citation software

What Does a Citation Manager Do?

A citation manager helps academics track and cite sources for research and essays. They can also generate a reference and bibliography. A researcher or academic can use them to create lists of blog posts, articles, books, talks, interviews and more that they refer to in their work. Then, they can correctly format these references and paste the correct citation into their writing app of choice. They can also refer to their library of sources at any time.

Do I Need a Citation Manager?

Not every writer needs a citation manager. They’re more suited for those in academia or who spend time working with various sources and references. A freelance writer can get by with a basic link to their source. 

However, an academic, essayist or author may have additional needs. If, for example, they want to create a bibliography of over a dozen sources, they need a citation manager to save time and avoid accidental plagiarism. That way, they can check their library at any time and also update it as they source new research.

Learn about why citations are important.

1. Endnote

Price: $110. 30-day free trial available
Uses: Best for those looking for a comprehensive citation program.

Endnote
The program provides support for a wide variety of citation styles

Endnote has been around for years and is rock-solid. Endnote has several significant benefits over other tools. It offers automatic PDF downloads and enables searching hundreds of related academic resources. Using this reference manager, you can share PDFs or your library with an unlimited number of people. However, some users complained that it’s clunky and takes time to learn.

Pros
  • Import multiple references easily
  • The program provides support for a wide variety of citation styles
  • You get access to unlimited storage for no additional charge
  • The automatic PDF downloader is exceptional
Cons
  • Meant for desktop use, with other platforms being a bit clunky.
  • Expensive
  • Web sync is a challenge to configure

2. Zotero

Price: Free up to 15 GB as long as you have Google Drive.
Uses: Best for anyone looking for a free, open-source software program.

Zotero
Zotero is free and compatible across multiple platforms

Zotero is one of the most popular citation programs available and is one of the few programs compatible with Linux. It is a cross-platform program that features a Firefox plug-in, is compatible with Microsoft Word, and lets you export your references and just about any file format.

Even though the default storage option isn’t significant, you can increase your default storage if you have access to Google Drive. Some programs might have flashier features, but this is a great way to support an open-source program that benefits researchers everywhere. 

Pros
  • Free and compatible across multiple platforms.
  • Great tools for sharing PDFs
  • Integrates with Microsoft Word. 
Cons
  • Designed for Firefox, so it can be clunky.
  • Free file storage is limited.
  • No built-in PDF annotator. 

3. Mendeley

Price: Starts at $5 per month, but no free trial is available
Uses: Best for research departments looking for a program that can handle multiple types of academic citations.

Mendeley
Mendeley has a drag and drop features that make it easy to organize citations

Mendeley is a citation program that is ideal for departments with multiple users. The program is perfect for keeping references organized, sharing references with others, and annotating documents. The collaborative features are what set this program apart from the others.

The program is excellent for research staff teams that need to organize references in different formats, from MLA to APA and Chicago-style citations. While the program can be challenging for those without an academic background, it is still one of the strongest citation programs available.

Pros
  • Easy for you to collaborate with other people
  • Handles a variety of citations ranging from MLA to APA
  • Drag and drop works well for organizing citations
Cons
  • The servers go down from time to time, which can be frustrating
  • A learning curve for those outside academia
  • Mendeley does not automatically sync across multiple files or folders

4. ReadCube Papers

Price: Starts at $3 per month for a single user or $20 per month for the Enterprise package
Uses: Best for those who have projects that already have a clearly defined scope.

ReadCube Papers
The program excels if you have a project with well-defined topics, as you can divide work among multiple people and handle citations easily

ReadCube Papers is another program that can help you handle your citations. The program excels if you have a project with well-defined topics, as you can divide work among multiple people and handle citations easily. This program also works well with Microsoft Word. While it can be a bit clunky if you need to move citations from document to document, ReadCube Papers can streamline the process, ensuring that your citations are accurate before you submit your work for review.

Pros
  • The user interface is easy to follow.
  • Integrates with Microsoft Word.
  • Affordable
Cons
  • The customer support team slow to respond
  • Older PDF documents not compatible
  • Citations and annotations are not compatible with Adobe Acrobat.

5. EasyBib

Price: There is a free version. The paid version starts at $10 per month. There is no free trial available.
Uses: EasyBib is an ideal program for students and teachers who want to show others how to do citations.

Easybib
The program also has flowcharts and infographics that can help with the process

If you are looking for a helpful program that can make citations easier for students, you will want to check out EasyBib. The program has a built-in bibliography creator that can make it easier for you to handle citations and annotation.

This program includes a variety of other writing resources, including guides and grammar lessons. Plenty of videos can make it easier for people to follow MLA and APA citations. The program also has flowcharts and infographics that can help with the process.

Pros
  • Helpful videos that can explain how to cite
  • Built-in bibliography creator
  • Features a variety of flowcharts and infographics
Cons
  • No free trial available and free version is lacking.
  • Slow for those who know exactly what they want to do.
  • User interface and graphics look dated.

6. Bibtex

Price: Free
Uses: Best for those looking for a consistent management program that works on multiple platforms.

BibTex
Usually, this program works with another to compile references called LaTeX

Bibtex is a reference management software program that can help you compile multiple lists of references. Usually, this program works with another to compile references called LaTeX. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to cite your sources consistently. It was first released in 1985 and is updated from time to time, with the last update being in 2010.

Pros
  • Straightforward and easy to use.
  • Handles multiple formats including, MLA, and Chicago formats.
  • Exports to multiple platforms.
Cons
  • The program’s interface looks outdated.
  • Users must learn LaTeX and BibTeX 

7. Paperpile

Price: $36 per year
Uses: Best for those looking to publish research documents in academic journals.

Paperpile
Using this program, you can organize sources easily, keeping track of what citations correspond to what information is in your piece

Finally, you might also want to consider Paperpile. It is a simple but effective citation and reference manager developed by academic professionals.

Using this program, you can organize sources easily, keeping track of what citations correspond to what information is in your piece. The program is compatible with many document formats, and you can add citations to your work through Google Docs. Finally, you can customize your keyboard shortcuts to make the citation process easier.

Pros
  • Can handle a wide variety of document formats
  • Inserts a citation with just a few clicks
  • Customizable keyboard shortcuts
Cons
  • There is no free version.
  • Does not contain a lot of automation features
  • Cannot work without internet access

8. Quillbot

Price: $19.95 per month
Uses: managing citations and grammar checks

Quillbot citation generator
Users can copy the correct citation into their essays and manage a library of citations inside Quillbot

Quillbot was released in 2017 and has 50 million plus users. Academics will love the citation generator. It formats any link, document or reference based on a user’s preferred academic or house style

Users can copy the correct citation into their essays and manage a library of citations inside Quillbot. It saved us hours checking and formatting a bibliography and references. Quillbot customers can use its premium tools for academic writing, particularly the paraphrasing and summarizer features.

To learn more, read our Quillbot review.

Pros
  • Many valuable tools beyond a citation manager
  • Easy to use
  • Supports a wide variety of citation styles
Cons
  • Grammar checker is not as powerful as competitors
  • Features may overwhelm new users

9. Chegg

Price: free trial/$10 per month
Uses: managing citations and grammar checks

Chegg review
Chegg is also a grammar checker, and it offers a similar service called Easy Bib, which features a similar citation manager

Chegg is a grammar checker and citation manager built for students. We found Chegg helpful but used Quillbot more because of its similar feature set at this price point. That said, academics can use the citation machine to create free manual citations of blog posts, articles and books. It supports MLA, APA, Chicago and other stylers. It takes about three clicks to create a citation.

Chegg is also a grammar checker, and it offers a similar service called Easy Bib, which features a similar citation manager. To learn more, read our Grammarly vs Chegg comparison.

10. Grammarly

It’s now possible to generate citations quickly and easily with Grammarly for APA, MLA and Chicago Manual of Style. This new feature works across journals and some other online publications. In the below, tutorial I explain how it works. For more, check out our Grammarly review.

YouTube video

Pros
  • Affordable, with free version available
  • Simple to use
  • Aimed at academics
Cons
  • No mobile app
  • Fewer plugins and desktop apps than competitors

Selection Criteria

There are several factors that we considered during our selection process. Some of the factors we considered during our ranking include:

  • Ease of Use: We considered how easy each program was to use. The easier the program is to use, the better it is. We looked for integrations and browser plugin options, such as Chrome and Safari. Developing citations can be time-consuming, so the faster the program can help you handle your citations, the higher we ranked them.
  • Value for Money: We also considered the features you got for your money. Even though having too many features can be overwhelming, customizability is usually good. More expensive programs can be beneficial if they give you access to features you will use.
  • Compatibility Across Multiple Platforms: Everyone uses a slightly different platform, so we looked for program compatibility across multiple platforms. Is it easy to use the program on PC and Mac products? Does it work well on mobile devices? Will it work well on IOS and Android? The more compatible the program is, the better it should work. 

After considering all these factors, we developed the ranking list above to help you find the best citation software to meet your needs. 

Which Software is Best for Citations?

Endnote is the best-in-class citation software. That said, we particularly like Zotero and Quillbot due to their price points and ease of use. The latter has excellent functionality academics would like, such as a grammar checker. Papers excels due to its ease of use. That said, all of the tools in this article are good.

Why You Can Trust Me

You have multiple software programs available, so you might wonder why you can trust these reviews. Some of the most important reasons why you should trust my review process include:

  • Personally Tried: I have tried all these programs to see which works best for my needs. I used them to develop an individual list of citations to see how easy the process was.
  • Published Author: I have experience producing citations in various formats for various publications. I understand what is required to write a good, accurate source, and I used these programs to create my citations.
  • Solicited Other Opinions: Finally, I spoke with people who publish content regularly to see what programs they use. I incorporated their opinions as I was trying to figure out how to rank each of these individual programs.

After talking to other people, trying these programs, and using them to make my citations, I developed the ranking list above to help you find the correct citation program to meet your needs. 

Final Word on the Best Citation Software

These are a few of the many programs you can choose from. Plenty of citation styles are available if you need to add bibliographies to your work. You might be looking at EDU websites, trying to figure out the best way to add your citations.

It would help if you considered the benefits and drawbacks of each of these programs before you decide which one is right for your knee. That way, you can format a reference list appropriately while saving as much time as possible. 

If you like this article, check out our profile of the best essay writing apps.

FAQs About the Best Citation Software

Are there any other citation management programs I should consider?

You may want to consider a few other options, such as Mendeley and RefWorks. There is no single best program out there. You need to think about your specific needs and compare them to the features of each program. 

Why should I use a citation software program?

You need to use a citation management software program because it can help you save time while ensuring the accuracy of your references. That way, you can give credit where credit is due while getting the most out of your writing time.

What citation software works with Google Docs?

Paperpile works best with Google Docs. A writer can access PDFs from anywhere using this citation manager and then paste their citations and a correctly formatted bibliography into a Google Doc.

Citation Manager Resources

If you’re unsure about what style works best, check out the following guides:

Who uses Chicago style?

What are MLA citations?

What are APA citations?

What are footnote citations?

What are intext citations?

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