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.

Do you need a reference manager?

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

Features of a reference manager
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 automatically generate references in any citation style.

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

What users say:

“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

⇨ What does a reference manager do?

⇨ What is the easiest reference manager to use?

Frequently Asked Questions about reference manager

What is a reference manager?

A reference manager is a software tool designed to help researchers collect, organize, store, and cite references from various sources.

What are the main features of a reference manager?

Reference managers allow you to import and export citations, manage PDFs, format bibliographies, and organize your research library.

What is Paperpile?

Paperpile is a clean and simple reference manager that allows you to import and export references, upload, store, and annotate PDFs, and seamlessly share your research library with colleagues and co-authors. You can collect references with the Paperpile Chrome extension, download PDFs and sync them directly to your Google Drive, and insert citations and bibliographies in Google Docs, with just one click.