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Reference management for students

  • - how to get your references right

No matter what kind of assignment you are working on you must always document who you cite, which literature you use and where you have your information from. In your assignment you insert references that refer to your bibliography continuously. How to do this correctly depends on how you choose to set up your references. It depends on which standard or output style you use.

Which output style to use?

There are many different output styles or formats for correctly citing your sources. Some degree programmes at the university will ask students to use a specific output style for their written projects and exams. Examples could be the standard APA 7th for students of Psychology or the refererence style Chicago full note for students of History. Medicine students often use the reference style Nature.

See following example of the output style APA7th:

How the reference will look in your text

(Rienecker & Stray Jørgensen, 2022)

How the reference will look in your bibliography

Rienecker, L., & Stray Jørgensen, P. (2022). Den gode opgave: håndbog i opgave-, projekt- og specialeskrivning (6. udg.). Samfundslitteratur.

Make sure to check the academic regulations for your programme, the AU course catalogue concerning your programme page or the subject portal to ensure whether or not there are specific expectations for which output style to use in your program. If there are not formal requirements, we recommend that you contact your advisor or professor.

Regardless of which output style you use it is essential that you are consistent and that your references are precise. Therefore, we recommend that you use a reference tool, e.g. EndNote or Zotero.

Why should you use a reference management tool?

If you learn how to use reference management software early in your studies you can optimize your writing process and save time. Likewise, you ensure that your references are formatted correctly and you can co-work and share references easily with your fellow students.

Both students and faculty at Aarhus University can download the software Endnote for free. Endnote is the primary reference management tool at AU. At AU Library we support and organize courses on how to use Endnote.

If you have specific needs that make other programs a better fit for you you can use JabRef or Paperpile for example. Read more about the different reference management tools.

Standards and out styles

Depending on which reference style you choose you can either refer to and sort your references numerically or alphabetically in the bibliography.

Example of an alphabetical reference style: APA 7th

The APA 7th reference style, which is used in several social science programs, is an example of an alphabetical reference style. The reference consists of author name(s) and publication year in parentheses, e.g. (Oshima & Hogue, 2006) in the assignment text and the references are listed alphabetically in the bibliography. See an example of a book:

Example of a numeric reference style: Vancouver

The Vancouver reference style, which is used in several health science programs, is an example of a numerical reference style. The reference is created with a number in parentheses, e.g., (1) in the assignment text. The references are listed numerically in the bibliography.
See an example of a book:

Regardless of which output style you choose we recommend that you use a reference management program, such as EndNote or Zotero, which automatically generates your references. Read more about reference management tools.

Use a reference management tool


EndNote 20 is a reference management tool that can be downloaded for free by students and employees at Aarhus University. EndNote can be used on Windows, Mac, and Linux and can be used as an add-in to Microsoft Word. EndNote has been developed with a high degree of customization options, making it a valuable tool across disciplines.

If you have questions or need help, you can always contact the library.

The key benefits of EndNote include:

  • Options for customizing output styles styles
  • No space limitations and fast import of references - ideal for large collections of references
  • Possibility for automatic import of PDFs and full-text search options directly from EndNote
  • Good search options for references, including in PDFs and PDF comments


Zotero is an open source reference management tool that is compatible with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. It can be used on both PCs and Apple computers. Zotero can also run on Linux. The Zotero plugin can be used with Google Documents and Microsoft Word. Zotero is specifically developed for students and researchers in the humanities and aesthetics, Zotero is particularly suitable for students enrolled in programs at AU Arts. You can download Zotero from the official Zotero website.

AU Library supports Zotero in a limited capacity.

The key benefits of Zotero include:

  • Easy and quick to download
  • Zotero can be used in Google Docs in the same way as in Word and is useful for group work
  • You can change language and output styles in the settings in the program as needed
  • Easy import of references in browsers through Zotero's plug-in for Chrome and Firefox
  • Particularly useful when writing references in footnotes, such as in Chicago full note


JabRef is a free reference management tool that can be used on Windows, Mac and Linux. The tool is developed to work with BibTeX files and is suitable for LaTeX users. JabRef is therefore a great tool for working with references in systems such as TeX/LaTeX and Markdown. JabRef can be used as an add-on to external programs such as Emacs, Kile, LyX, Texmaker, TeXstudio, Vim and WinEdt.

The key benefits of JabRef include:

  • JabRef is suitable for LaTeX users with good integration with LaTeX editors and programs that use the BibTex file format
  • References can be retrieved via ISBN or DOI number
  • No storage limits


Paperpile is a web-based reference management tool that can be used with Windows and Mac with a subscription. Paperpile can be used as an add-on to Chrome, Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and Overleaf. Since Paperpile is web-based, references and associated PDF files are always available across devices on both Android and iOS.

The key benefits of Paperpile include:

  • Paperpile is a cloud-based program that allows you to read and annotate your PDF files across multiple devices, including mobile, tablet, and computer
  • Easy access via your Google account
  • References can be retrieved directly via ISBN or DOI number

Use a reference management tool

Use a reference management tool to keep track of your references and use them in a correct and consistent way.