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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.

Remember to cite ChatGPT and verify its references

At AU answers or outputs from Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT are considered references. Consequently, you should cite them in your assignments in accordance with your citation style, the same way you would cite any other reference. The specific citation format for ChatGPT will depend on the citation style you are using in your assignment.

Find recommendations for citing ChatGPT in APA, Chicago, and MLA styles.

If you use ChatGPT or other LLMs to generate references ensure you always verify these references, as they may contain errors or be may fabricated.

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 output 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.

How to refer to ChatGPT

How a reference to ChatGPT should look like depends on the chosen referencing style. Note that guidelines for referencing ChatGPT are still under development, so make sure to check your referencing standard.

Here are some examples based on APA, MLA, and Chicago styles, all of which have different guidelines for referencing ChatGPT.


In a blog post from the American Psychological Association (APA, 7th edition) references to ChatGPT and other LLMs are based on the reference type "Software". Therefore, it is important that you include the type of software (Large language model) and which model of ChatGPT you have used. You can check this at the bottom of ChatGPT's page. If the version is not found on the page then write ChatGPT 3.5, for example. The reference is included in both the text and the reference list, for example:

Reference in the text

(OpenAI, 2023) or OpenAI (2023)

Reference list

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (Nov 6 version) [Large language model].


Here OpenAI is the author and 2023 is the year when the version of ChatGPT you used is from. The title of your reference is ChatGPT. (Nov 6 version) shows which model you have used and Large language model describes the type of software. The URL shows where the tool can be accessed.


With the Chicago referencing style the use of ChatGPT is considered "personal communication", as the output from ChatGPT cannot be accessed by others. This means that when using the Chicago referencing style - both Chicago notes and Chicago author-date - you only need to insert references for ChatGPT in the text. Not in the bibliography. As an example you can refer to ChatGPT in the following way:

Numbered footnote or endnote

  1. Text generated by ChatGPT, OpenAI, February 9, 2024, https://chat.openai.com/chat.

OpenAI corresponds to the author and the date is when the text was generated by ChatGPT. The URL is where the tool can be accessed.

Chicago author-date format

(ChatGPT, February 9, 2024)

Here it is noted that a text is generated by ChatGPT and the date for when it was generated.

If you make the content available to the reader - both your input and ChatGPT's output - e.g. with ShareGPT - you should also have a reference in the bibliography when using the Chicago style.


The Modern Language Association (MLA) referencing style uses the same template for all reference types, including ChatGPT. When using the MLA referencing style you note which command you have given ChatGPT both in the text and in the reference list, for example:

Reference in the text

"PubMed is a medical database with advanced search functions. However, Google Scholar is more accessible to a larger group of users so what one uses depends on the user and the context" ("Describe the differences between PubMed and Google Scholar")

Reference list

“Describe the differences between scientific databases such as PubMed, and on the other hand Google Scholar” command. ChatGPT, Nov 6 version, OpenAI, Feb 3, 2024, chat.openai.com/chat.”

With MLA ChatGPT is not mentioned as the author and the title is a description of the command you have given ChatGPT. The version can be found at the bottom of the ChatGPT page. If the version is not found on the page write ChatGPT 3.5, for example. The date after the publisher (OpenAI) shows when you used ChatGPT.

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.