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Free Citation Management Software: Home

What options are available and why would I want to use a free program?

Frontier gives you the opportunity to create a RefWorks account but there are also several free-to-use citation management programs available. Each program has their unique advantages and it is sometimes helpful to duplicate your citation libraries to one of the free options to try out their different features. The free programs do have their limitations, such as storage caps, but for students and small-to-medium scale research, they can be quite useful. In this info guide, we will explore three of the most common free programs: Mendeley, Zotero, and EndNote Basic.  Tip: No citation management software will produce perfect results but they are useful tools to help lighten your workload. All in-text citations and references will still need to be proofread and compared to the APA Manual, 7th edition, for accuracy.


  • Mendeley has a web-based interface, desktop client, citation plug-in, web reference importer, and a mobile application that work together to provide a seamless experience for both PC and Mac users. The web interface and the mobile app also include a social media platform to connect researchers to each other and to new articles of interest. With the free account, you get up to 2GB of personal storage.
  • To get started with Mendeley, create an account.
  • After account creation, download the desktop client.
  • If you have Microsoft Word or Libre Office installed on your computer, a citation plug-in is available to download under the "tools" menu in the Mendeley desktop client.
  • Finally, download and install the web reference browser extension to capture references from the internet.
  • Mendeley has many video tutorials available to help you along the way!
  • To get citations from Ebsco, you can either export them directly to Mendeley with the browser extension or you can export the citations in an RIS file and then manually import the file into Mendeley.


  • Zotero is an open-source citation management system that combines a web-based interface, desktop client, a citation plug-in, and a browser extension for importing web references. With the free account, you get up to 300MB of storage. 
  • To get started, create a free account.
  • Download the desktop client.
  • Consider installing the Zotero connector extension to your browser to capture web references. There is an extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
  • For a quick citation, you can also try Zoterobib. You can search by URL, ISBN (for books only), PMID, DOI, or title. 
  • Similar to Mendeley, you can do a direct export to Zotero from Ebsco databases if you have the Zotero connector browser extension installed or you can export as an RIS file and them upload them to Zotero.

EndNote Basic

  • The full version of EndNote has long been a mainstay of academics but it is pricey. There is a free version called EndNote basic (formerly EndNote Web) that can be useful for students and research on a smaller scale. With the basic account, you can store up to 50,000 references and up to 2GB of stored attachments.
  • To get started, register for a free account.
  • Unlike Mendeley and Zotero, there is no desktop client to download and install.
  • There are downloads for a Cite while you Write plug-in and a Capture Reference bookmarklet. The bookmarklet allows you to capture web references, similar to the Mendeley and Zotero browser extensions. To install the bookmarklet, drag and drop it to your bookmarks bar.
  • You can do a direct export from Ebsco databases to EndNote basic--see picture below. (Ebsco still refers to it as EndNote Web)