What is a reference manager?

A reference manager, also known as citation manager or bibliographic software, is a software tool designed to help researchers, academics, students, and professionals organize, store, and manage references and citations for their research and academic work.

The primary purpose of a reference manager is to optimize and facilitate the process of collecting, organizing, and citing sources in various documents, such as research papers, essays, theses, dissertations, and reports.

What is the best reference manager?

⇨ What is the easiest reference manager to use?

Paperpile reference manager

Features of a reference manager

Reference managers offer a range of features that can streamline your research process:

Feature categoryDescription

Importing and Exporting

Reference managers allow you to import references from various sources such as databases, websites, and PDF files.

Many popular reference managers also support exporting references in different citation styles.

Organization and Search

These tools provide a user-friendly interface to organize your references into folders or categories. You can search your entire library using keywords, authors, titles, or other metadata.

PDF Management

Many reference managers offer built-in PDF management features, allowing you to annotate, highlight, and add notes to your PDF documents. Some even provide advanced tools for extracting text or creating summaries.

Bibliographic Formatting

One of the most valuable features of reference managers is their ability to automatically generate citations and bibliographies in various styles (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago).

This saves researchers a significant amount of time and ensures accuracy in citations.

Collaboration and Sharing

Reference managers enable collaboration among researchers by allowing shared access to references or entire libraries. This facilitates team projects and makes it easy to collaborate remotely.


For example, the Paperpile reference manager offers features like the ability to import references from various sources (online databases, library catalogs, and other reference managers) and to generate references in any citation style automatically.

Paperpile is my personal assistant for filing and organizing data for my research.

-Associate Professor, Kyoto University

Paperpile is a one-stop solution for gathering research literature, labeling, taking quick notes, and easy reading from any logged-in device.

-Researcher, Bar-Ilan University

Paperpile also helps you manage your PDF documents. You can:

Highlight and annotate PDFs in Paperpile

Read more about reference managers:

Other interesting topics:

All your papers in one place. Nice and tidy.