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GR ST 529: Preparing Publishable Thesis Chapters

Writing support for graduate students

What are they?

Bibliography Management software organizes the citations that you collect while you are doing literature searches. Many have cloud-based storage and offer capabilities for reformatting your citations into the style of your choice. Some can connect to your stored citations while you are actually writing your paper, allowing you to pull citations into your paper as needed, and automatically reformat them to the citation style you need. Here's brief information on three software programs that the ISU Library supports.

Which one?

There is no single bibliography management software that is objectively "better" than another. You will need to choose what makes sense for you. If you are collaborating with others, it will be good to use the same system.

The Library supports EndNote Basic (formerly called EndNote Web), Mendeley, and Zotero.  We teach workshops on these tools during Fall and Spring semesters.

Regardless of what you choose, don't expect the software to be perfect. You will almost certainly need to clean up some citations or do tweaking at some point. 

Here's a good (though somewhat dated) list that compares EndNote, Mendeley, and Zotero, done by librarians at Barnard Library.  

Note that it's no longer true that when you graduate and leave an institution, you will lose your EndNote Basic account. You will still have access to your account and be able to use it!  So, that's no longer a reason to choose Mendeley or Zotero instead.


EndNote and EndNote Web are two different products produced by the same company.  

  • EndNote is the commercial desktop version of this software.  Of the two, it offers the greatest functionality (probably more than most researchers would ever need to use) but you have to buy the software to use it. 
  • EndNote Basic is cloud-based and totally free online. Due to your ISU affiliation, you will have access to many styles and tons of storage - again, more than most researchers need. You can also share references with collaborators.
  • If you have both EndNote and EndNote Web, you can sync them together. However, there is no need to use both as they are independent of each other.

Want to learn EndNote Basic?  Plan to attend one of our EndNote Basic workshops!  Check our Library Workshops guide for dates.


  • Mendeley also has both a desktop version and a cloud-based version.  Unlike EndNote, Mendeley's desktop version is free and must be downloaded onto your computer. The cloud-based version of Mendeley is also free.
  • Mendeley's desktop version has the greater functionality, while its cloud-based version provides some social network features. You can sync your records among the two versions also. Unlike EndNote, there is a greater need to use Mendeley's desktop version and its cloud-based version together.

Want to learn Mendeley? Plan to attend one our Library workshops on Mendeley.  Check our Library Workshops guide for information and dates.


  • Zotero is free to download from the web, and works with Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.  As with the other software, Zotero allows you to collect, organize, and use your citations to create bibliographies, reading lists, and inline citations as you're writing your paper.

Want to learn Zotero? Plan to attend one our Library workshops!  Check our Library Workshops guide for information and dates.

Your Librarian

Abbey Elder's picture
Abbey Elder
150 Parks Library
Iowa State University