University Library System
University Library System

Reference management

For the purposes of a research project — be it a thesis or an article for a scientific journal — the bibliography is an organised list of the documents, books, articles, essays and web pages that have been consulted.

The bibliography adds scientific value to a thesis, as it reflects the research process undertaken.


Why is citing sources so important?

Three reasons why it’s important:

  • To avoid plagiarism, according to intellectual property laws and copyright
  • To allow your reader to track down the sources you used by citing them accurately in your paper
  • To show you have done proper research, by giving credit to other researchers and acknowledging their ideas


How to write references and bibliography?

Citations consist of standard elements and contain all the information necessary to identify and track down publications, including:

  • author name(s)
  • titles of books, articles, and journals
  • date of publication
  • page numbers (for articles or book chapters)
  • volume and issue numbers (for articles)

When drawing up a bibliography, the author has to decide on a citation style, which may be recommended by the tutor or the publisher.
A citation style is a set of rules that specify the order, syntax and text formatting of information in a reference.

No matter what style you choose, there are two fundamental rules:

  • Coherence: apply the style of your choice in all your paper
  • Identification: the bibliographic citation must allow the exact identification of a referenced document and to locate it in library and bookshop catalogues.

There are two most common citation schemes: author-date system and footnote or endnotes pattern. The main difference is how to cite while you are writing.
The Author-Date system inserts a brief citation in the text, generally the name of the author and publication year; these details are inside brackets.
Footnote or endnotes system, instead, has full detailed references at the bottom of the page.
In both cases, a bibliography or reference list at the end of the thesis is required.


Why use reference management software?

Reference management software can help you:

  • import citations from catalogues, databases and websites
  • create and organise bibliographies for theses, books and articles
  • insert and format citations within the text of documents

There are lots of tools and websites that can help you create citations and bibliographies: one of the most popular is Zotero.



The Padua University Library System doesn’t have a subscription to any citation management software but recommends Zotero because it is a free and open-source tool and it’s very easy to use.

It is possible to use Zotero both in the web version and in the desktop application. The free browser extension Zotero Connector allows users to collect bibliographic references quickly and effectively.


Zotero also provides the management of PDF files and integrates a PDF reader in the desktop application. Zotero's Word, LibreOffice, and Google Docs plugins allow users to insert citations directly from their preferred word processing software.

It is suggested to make regular backups of your Zotero library. Complete documentation about its features and functions is available on the Zotero website.

If you run into any problems or have any specific questions you can look them up in the Zotero forums.


Training courses

The University Library System organises training courses to learn how to use Zotero effectively.

If you need any further information, please contact the Library Helpline.