Reference Manager vs. Citation Manager: What’s the Difference?
Have you noticed that people refer to reference management software, citation management software, or even literature management software—and there doesn’t seem to be any difference between one or the other? If so, you’re not alone!
Here’s the skinny...
Reference management, citation management, and literature management are all terms that refer to organizing scholarly literature to make findable what needs to be found. But there are some distinctions. In this post, we’ll take a look at how these terms are used, what we mean by management—and why it matters.
References and Citations: Nuances and Overlap
A reference and a citation are nearly the same term. A reference inside a text is a slice of a citation. In the body of a scientific paper, let’s say, there will be references to works: names and dates, perhaps a page number. The full reference—the citation—can be found in the bibliography.
A citation provides the most relevant information of a work: Author, date, title, journal/publisher, edition, and increasingly, a Digital Object Identifier (DOI). Citations in bibliographies refer to the reference in the text of a paper. Citations in bibliographies provide fuller descriptions of the more economical entries in the text itself.
Citation is acknowledging the work of other researchers. And being cited is mega important. In the world of academia, for instance, it can help professors secure tenure. Not citing the work of others can lead to charges of plagiarism.
You can see that reference and citation are in significant ways pretty much the same thing, and the terms are generally interchangeable. References are citations and citations are references. When a scholar or scientist wants to know how many times they’ve been cited, however, we use the term “citation count.” And that’s always about citations, never about references.
What About Literature?
When we say “literature,” we’re referring to scholarly literature. When someone says, “consult the literature,” they mean, consult the work of the researchers and scholars of a discipline or of a scientific community. Consult a body of knowledge.
Where Does Literature Management Software Fit In?
Citations let us know what’s going on in the literature and who’s doing it.
So, you can see that managing the literature is essential. Indeed, with so much scholarship—and so many citations floating around—efficient management becomes key to any scholarly endeavor. That’s where we step in. We help you avoid citation overload. Fast, easy access to scholarly literature—combined with a central PDF library and robust tools for managing your citations—makes the information you need not only findable, but workable.
If you’d like 5 quick tips for mastering the art of reference management, grab this free guide.