Reference management software

Reference management software, citation management software, or bibliographic management software is software for scholars and authors to use for recording and utilising bibliographic citations (references) as well as managing project references either as a company or an individual.[1] Once a citation has been recorded, it can be used time and again in generating bibliographies, such as lists of references in scholarly books, articles and essays. The development of reference management packages has been driven by the rapid expansion of scientific literature.

These software packages normally consist of a database in which full bibliographic references can be entered, plus a system for generating selective lists of articles in the different formats required by publishers and scholarly journals. Modern reference management packages can usually be integrated with word processors so that a reference list in the appropriate format is produced automatically as an article is written, reducing the risk that a cited source is not included in the reference list. They will also have a facility for importing the details of publications from bibliographic databases.

Reference management software does not do the same job as a bibliographic database, which tries to list all articles published in a particular discipline or group of disciplines. Such bibliographic databases are large and have to be housed on major server installations. Reference management software collects a much smaller database, of the publications that have been used or are likely to be used by a particular author or group, and such a database can easily be housed on an individual's personal computer.

Apart from managing references, most reference management software also enables users to search references from online libraries. These online libraries are usually based on Z39.50 public protocol. Users just need to specify the IP address, database name and keywords to start a Z39.50 search. It is quicker and more efficient than a web browser. However, Z39.50 is a little out of date. Some popular scientific websites, such as Google Scholar, IEEE Xplore and arXiv, do not support the Z39.50 protocol.[citation needed]