Key features to look for in a reference manager

When selecting a reference management software, there are several key features to consider based on your specific research needs and preferences.

What is a reference manager?

Paperpile reference manager

Here are 12 important features to look for in a reference manager:

  1. Importing and organizing references: The software should allow easy import of references from various sources and efficient ways to organize references through folders, labels, and tags.
  2. Citation styles: The software should support a wide range of citation styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) to ensure your citations and bibliographies are correctly formatted.
  3. Integration with word processors: Integration with word processors (e.g., Microsoft Word, Google Docs) for seamless citation insertion and bibliography creation is crucial.
  4. PDF management: If you work with PDFs, look for features to annotate, highlight, and organize PDF files alongside your references.
  5. Cloud syncing: Cloud-based reference managers allow you to access your library from different devices and ensure your data is backed up.
  6. Browser extension: A browser extension that lets you capture references directly from websites and online databases can be very convenient.
  7. Search: A robust search function helps you quickly find specific references within your library.
  8. Collaboration: If you collaborate with others, features for sharing and collaborating on reference collections can be valuable.
  9. Mobile apps: A mobile app can provide on-the-go access to your references and make capturing new references easier.
  10. Support for different document types: Ensure the software can handle various types of documents beyond journal articles, such as books, theses, patents, and more.
  11. Export options: Look for the ability to export your references in various formats for use in other software or platforms.
  12. Cross-platform compatibility: Ensure the software works across different operating systems (Windows, macOS, Linux).

Ultimately, the best reference management software will depend on your research workflow and preferences. It's a good idea to try out a few options to see which one aligns with your needs before committing to one.


“Paperpile is the best app I have come across for organizing and managing references and literature reviews.”

-Researcher, Navrongo Health Research Centre

Paperpile is a modern reference manager that meets all of the above criteria and more, for example:

  • Lightning-quick reference import
  • Integrations with Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and LaTeX
  • Access your library from anywhere you want: Mobile Apps for iOS and Android
  • Easy sharing of references with collaborators

🚀 Try Paperpile for free for 30 days; no credit card needed!

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