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GR ST 529: Preparing Publishable Thesis Chapters

Writing support for graduate students


There is no single bibliography management software that is objectively "better" than another, when considering the major players. You will need to choose what makes best 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 various 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 various citations or do some tweaking at some point. 

Here's a good (though somewhat dated) detailed 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.


Bibliography Management software organizes the references (citations) that you collect while you are doing lit searches. Many have cloud-based storage and offer capabilities of 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 info on a three software programs that the ISU Library supports.


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 much more than most researchers would ever need to use) but you have to buy the software.
  • 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 would ever 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 have or use both as they are independent of each other.

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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 both 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.



Free 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