Top Free Reference Management Software

Check out our list of free Reference Management Software. Products featured on this list are the ones that offer a free trial version. As with most free versions, there are limitations, typically time or features.

If you'd like to see more products and to evaluate additional feature options, compare all Reference Management Software to ensure you get the right product.

(79)4.4 out of 5
Entry Level Price:$3+ /month

We are on a mission to make the world of research more accessible and connected - serving researchers, publishers, academic and commercial organizations. Papers offers a robust cross-platform suite of reference management & discovery tools that can dramatically improve the way researchers find, access, organize, read, annotate, share, and cite research literature. Search + Download * Built-in search engines * Personalized recommendations * Related article feeds * Institutional proxy supp

Kevin M.
I like that I can annotate all my papers with highlights, underlines, and notes, and even add floating sticky notes. I like the color options for... Read review
Wolfgang G.
There is a lot I really like: 1. That its simple! Organization of the library, importing papers from the journal site or PubMed, PDFs is very easy... Read review
(16)4.8 out of 5
Entry Level Price:$449 per user

Citavi is a software program that helps you organize your research projects and manage your time. Keep track of all the sources you read and their contents. Analyze PDF articles with annotation tools, and save ideas for future projects. Create outlines for drafts and write reports, articles, or books – faster and more efficiently than you ever thought possible. Citavi is the only academic productivity tool this comprehensive and the only program that supports the entire research process. Try C

It is easy to format references in an article to meet any publisher's demands. It is also easy to create bibliographies for students. I also... Read review
That you have the complete literature that you used for the essay in a list. Quotations are easy to make with the tool. Read review
(16)4.2 out of 5

No-fuss reference management for the web. Sync your PDFs to Google Drive and cite your papers in Google Docs.

I love being able to use PP to organize research papers for my classroom. Read review
We have just started a project to stress this software to see if it can become a mainstay of our research collection. Early on I find it has a... Read review
(12)4.5 out of 5
Entry Level Price:Free

Sciwheel is an award-winning and evolving technology that provides customizable, intuitive and accessible tools to progress research and discovery.

Yudhishtar B.
The best aspect of being part of f1000 is the user recommendations and synopsis of papers that can be relevant to your field. It’s more than a... Read review
(3)3.2 out of 5

Figshare is an online digital repository where researchers can preserve and share their research outputs, including figures, datasets, images, and videos. It is free to upload content and free to access, in adherence to the principle of open data.

figshare is online open storage service which allow you to update and share your data. It is completely free to upload data and free to access the... Read review
You can get free DOI for any work you upload on Figshare and you can customize all your researcher profile. Read review

Top 5 Free Reference Management Software in 2021

  • ReadCube Papers
  • Citavi
  • Paperpile
  • Sciwheel
  • figshare

Learn More About Reference Management Software

What is Reference Management Software?

Reference management is a standard step in composing research projects. This software ensures the proper sources receive credit.

Many reference management tools help users create a personal resource library to organize all the resources they find and use for different projects. Reference management tools help create citations and bibliography pages with features that assist with citation generation in multiple different styles. These citations can come from online articles, books, journals, and other sources. It’s as simple as inputting article or journal information, then copying and pasting the results into the research paper itself. Reference management tools are commonly used for academic purposes. These tools are accessible for all ages.

Key Benefits of Reference Management Software

  • Generates citations in multiple different citation styles from various mediums
  • Allows users to organize resources into one accessible location
  • Increased access due to optimized synchronization

Why Use Reference Management Software?

Reference management tools are the most straightforward and efficient way to track sources when working on a research project. Different features common in reference management software let users create their own source libraries along with simple forms that generate full citations. As a result, users can save valuable time in the research process.

Generating citations — Many times generating citations is as easy as inputting a link or ISBN number, then copying and pasting the results into a works cited page. Reference management software lets users choose the citation style and includes specific pages for quoting sources, as a result this software can seamlessly generate citations for users.

Collecting sources — Depending on how long your research project is, you could be looking at utilizing a couple dozen sources. Reference management tools have features that let users organize sources in one place. This helps researchers keep track of when sources were found, an important feature as some projects might span over months or years.

Who Uses Reference Management Software?

Teachers — Many educators introduce reference management software into lessons so students have the knowledge and resources available to execute their own properly cited projects.

Students — Students of all ages, from grade school to grad school, use reference management software to keep track of sources. Students sometimes utilize this software for multiple projects at a time.

Independent researchers — Individuals doing research in specific fields, such as medicine or academia, will often need good reference management software to collect and monitor sources used in professional research projects.

Reference Management Software Features

Reference management software comes with a variety of features; most features are standard across the board, though a couple features are only found in certain tools.

Citation generation — These tools can generate citations from multiple sources, including websites, books, academic journals, and more. This includes the generation of citations in multiple different styles, including MLA, APA, Chicago style and more.

Bibliography generation — Reference management tools can create a bibliography with a collection of sources, saving researchers time.

Personal source library — Features in reference management software enable users to compile their own collection of sources that are relevant to their specific needs. This allows easy access for sources viewed in the past. This quick reference tool saves time for researchers as many may use the same sources for multiple projects.

Resource database — Many reference management tools connect to online databases full of resource materials, including journals, blogs, books, online publications, and more. Users can even search for reliable sources in the reference management tool.

Synchronization — Since many reference management tools are websites or web applications with dynamic features, users can access them from any device that can access web pages. This lets users access their research sources from anywhere.

Essay checker — This feature in some reference management software lets users submit their essay to a grammar and spell check. Some programs even scan for plagiarism by comparing submitted material to databases of source materials.