The purpose of this guide is to introduce the concept of citation and/or research manager applications. This guide will provide an overview of citation and research managers, including their capabilities, and will then provide a breakdown of the leading legal/academic manager applications on the market. Finally, a comparative chart detailing the features of several of these products is available at the end of the guide.
If you have further questions about citation managers, choosing the right product, knowing what is available to you through the University of Michigan or any other questions, please contact Law Library Reference (see Need Help?).
A citation or research manager is an application that assists users in maintaining and organizing their research. These managers are often in either a standalone platform or in an integrated web application that works within a browser. Many have online platforms as well as applications that can be downloaded onto your computer. Among the core functions of these types of applications, citation managers are capable of storing resources and generating formatted citations or bibliographic lists.
Why should I use a citation manager?
Using a citation/research manager can help make the research process clearer and more organized. Citation and research managers can be especially useful when working on a complex or large project or if you are working with multiple collaborators. These applications enable you to conduct research across many different platforms, maintaining your research in one defined place. When citing to many different resources, citation and research managers can make the process of creating citations much faster. Sharing capabilities enable users to share and consult on research when working in groups. Of course, use of a citation or research manager is a matter of preference, and there are many different products with varying capabilities to choose from.
What can a citation/research manager do?
Citation/research managers can be incredibly useful tools in managing your research, generating properly formatted citations, creating bibliographic lists and more. Most citation managers now provide integrated plugins with web browsers for use across the Web, and many offer note-taking and collaboration capabilities. Some products allow users to store web files or documents within the user's account. Products like RefWorks and Zotero permit notetaking on resources stored from the Web. The majority of these apps permit users to create projects or folders and to tag and organize their research within. Collaboration capabilities are also common and allow users to share work products and/or edit content jointly.
As with all legal writing, you should ensure that you are checking your citations even if you are using a citation manager. While these applications are useful to quickly generate citations, they are not perfect. Even managers that have Bluebook capabilities can often generate some errors. Never use your citation manager as the last step in generating citations before submission.
For more information on citation manager formatting issues:
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