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Compare EndNote, RefWorks, Mendeley and Zotero:

Comparison of reference management software features.

How to Choose: Identify Your Needs and Priorities

EndNote, RefWorks, Mendeley and Zotero are tools that serve the same purpose. They all allow you to create a database of references that you can use to keep track of your reading and to create references when you write. So how do you choose which one to use?

Think about your needs and decide on your priorities.

Possible priorities:

  • Cost: There is no cost to start using RefWorks, Mendeley or Zotero.
  • Working without internet access: You can use the references stored in EndNote, Mendeley or Zotero without being connected to the Internet.
  • Storing PDFs: EndNote, Mendeley or Zotero allow you to integrate downloaded PDFs with your reference database. EndNote will search for available full-text when you are on campus and this is a very quick way to download and organize the full-text of multiple recent references.
  • Working with a team: If you are joining an established team that has already chosen a particular reference management tool, it is a good idea to learn to use that tool. If you are just forming a team and all people are from UNC, create a separate RefWorks account for your group. For teams that cross institutions, look into Zotero Groups.
  • Systematic Reviews: EndNote and RefWorks allow ingestion of large result files from multiple databases and  provide various deduplication options. Create a separate EndNote library or RefWorks account for a systematic review project.

Remember that you may move your references between programs, so if you don't like one program you can always switch.

See the chart below for a detailed comparison of EndNote, RefWorks, Mendeley and Zotero features.

Comparing reference managers

HSL Guides to learn more Endnote RefWorks Mendeley Zotero
Classes at the HSL See here See here    
Cost Under $100 through UNC-CH Free through UNC-CH

Free to everyone
UNC-CH Add-ons

Free to everyone
How do you use it? Full - Your Computer
Basic -Endnote Web
Internet Full - Your computer
Basic - Mendeley Web
Full - Your computer
Basic - Zotero Web
Major citation styles?
Annotation of PDFs
Locate articles using Find@UNC Links to our subscriptions
(See instructions here)

(See instructions here)
Adds citation from a PDF
See instructions here
Sharing options Email libraries to collaborators See group options here Groups
(UNC-CH members have unlimited groups)
See group options here
(groups use the creator's storage space)
Free online storage 13,000+ papers 13,000+ papers 5,000+ papers
(UNC-CH members have more space)
700+ papers
(more space is inexpensive)


RefWorks Logo

Login to RefWorks

RefWorks is a web-based citation management and formatting program that is made available by UNC-Chapel Hill campus libraries for use by faculty, staff, students and alumni.