Citation managers

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 57, No. 8, October 2015, Page 360 College Library

Whether you’re working on a research project, a systematic review, or just trying to keep your must-read articles organized, citation managers such as Zotero, Endnote, Endnote Web, Refworks, and Mendeley can help.

All citation managers share similar functions. They import article citations from databases or websites, organize and store citations and full-text articles, allow for annotation and sharing, and can export references for a bibliography in a variety of citation styles.[1] Important features to consider in selecting the right citation manager for your needs are whether it is free or fee-based, whether it is desktop- or web-based, and its storage capacity.

While all features should be considered when selecting a citation manager, the ability to collaborate should also be near the top of the list. Free web-based managers such as Zotero and Mendeley allow multiple users using different devices to access article citations in a single digital library.[1] This feature is essential when working on systematic reviews and research projects with colleagues, or even sharing an article in a journal club setting. Zotero and Mendeley even incorporate a social media tool, allowing a user to search for and find other researchers or research groups working on similar topics. Collaborative groups or digital libraries may be open to allow for broad collaboration, or easily kept private according to your project’s needs.

Please feel free to contact the College Library to discuss which citation manager is best suited to your needs and how to integrate this valuable tool into your research.
—Paula Osachoff


This article is the opinion of the Library of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC and has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.


1.    Mahajan AK, Hogarth DK. Taking control of your digital library: How modern citation managers do more than just referencing. Chest 2013;144:1930-1933.

Paula Osachoff. Citation managers. BCMJ, Vol. 57, No. 8, October, 2015, Page(s) 360 - College Library.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.

For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

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