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Literature Review Challenge for Undergrads

Welcome to Day 5 of the Literature Review Challenge! 

Following up on our talk of organizing literature, today we turn to citation managers, which can save you time and make citing and writing more fun! (Ok, less stressful?)

One approach to organizing the literature you find is to use a citation manager. Why, you may ask? Because, a citation manager can help you:

  • Collect and organize resources for papers and projects (whether for a course paper, thesis, or collaborative project);
  • Keep your thoughts and ideas connected to the resources you collect (you can annotate each resource in your collection);
  • Create lists of citations in your citation style of choice (it's like Easy Bib, but way better!);
  • Facilitate collaborative writing (for instance, if you're writing a paper with other classmates);
  • And, cite while you write (easily insert citations into the body of your text and automatically generate a reference list at the end of your paper!).

Citation managers work with subject databases, search engines, Google Scholar, and the like. Watch this brief video from the Boston University Libraries to learn more, using Zotero as an example.

Your Challenge: Set Up an Account in a Citation Manager and Install the Web Grab-It Feature!

1. Set up an account in a citation manager. There are numerous options out there (see this comparison chart). People often like to use what their advisor or research team or other collaborative partners are using. Fogler Library supports Zotero and Mendeley, so those will be our focus.

2. Begin creating/organizing folders and pulling in literature. Consider what you're working on, and what folders or categories of literature would make sense to create. This will all depend on your needs and what suits your style. For example, you might create folders based on research topics or themes you're exploring, or different sections of an essay you're writing (e.g., introduction, literature review, methodology, discussion).

  • Install the web grab-it feature in order to collect resources anywhere on the internet! Whether you're on a government website, a news site, or in a library database, the web grab-it feature will capture that information and save it for you in your citation manager.

Once you install the web grab-it feature, if you don't see it next to your browser, find it in your browser's Extensions or Add-ons list.

  • Send literature to Zotero or Mendeley from library databases using the web grab-it feature.
    • Visit a database of interest (e.g., an EBSCO or ProQuest database, OneSearch, Web of Science, JSTOR). Or, for this practice run, try PubMed
    • Run your search, click on the Zotero or Mendeley extension icon in your browser (when there are multiple items in a results list, the icon will look like a folder), select the items you want to save, and select the folder where you want to save them.
      screenshot of a PubMed search and the location of the Zotero connector
  • Send literature to Zotero or Mendeley from Google Scholar. Run your search, and click the star below each item of interest.
    screenshot of a Google Scholar search and the location of the stars that indicate you are saving items to a folder
    Then, click on My Library at the top right of the page to see the list of results you have starred. 
    As before, click on your Zotero or Mendeley extension to select each item you want to save to your citation manager, and designate the folder where you want to save them. Woohoo!
  • Do you have citations that you want to include in your Zotero or Mendeley libraries and you aren't finding them online? You can manually add citations to either citation manager. Check out the quick start guides in #1 of this list for instructions.

3. Create a quick bibliography from your citation manager, in the citation style of your choice. Go to 2:55 in the Boston University Libraries video above for a brief description of how to do this. Remember to double check your bibliography for possible mistakes (no citation generator is perfect). You can edit the citations in your citation manager to fix any errors (e.g., if an author's name is in all caps).

Optional, Awesome BONUS Challenge: Set up Cite While You Write

Take your citation management skills to the next level! Install the Cite While You Write plug-in and try it out! This can be a timesaver because it connects your citation manager to the document you're writing. You're then able to easily insert in-text citations and create automatic reference lists while you're writing your paper(s).

  • Zotero's plug-in is automatic upon download, and works with Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, and Google Docs. See 3:55 of the Boston Libraries video at the top of this page to see how this works, and get more detailed instructions on how to use it here.
  • Mendeley's plug-in works with Microsoft Word and LibreOffice. Installation and use instructions are at this link.

Have questions or want additional assistance?

  • Contact your subject librarian for help. We'd love to work with you!
  • Contact our delightful citation specialist, Mel Johnson,!

Nicely done! You've completed the Literature Review Challenge!

Thank you for spending the week with us, diving into all things literature review. We hope you found this program helpful, and we look forward to seeing you on campus and online!

5729 Fogler Library · University of Maine · Orono, ME 04469-5729 ; (207) 581-1673

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