In our Health Writer Hub Facebook group, there are often discussions about preferences for referencing software.
There are few different software options available to help health writers create a bibliographic database to manage references. Choice usually depends on personal preference, cost, functionality and effectiveness.
Based on the group discussions, most health writers are divided between Mendeley and EndNote.
If you’re considering referencing software for your writing and are unsure which one to use, we’ve weighed up the benefits of both to help you decide.
Why use referencing software?
To begin, it can help to understand why health and medical writers use external bibliographic databases for effective referencing.
Once you have sourced the articles you are citing for your medical writing project, keeping track of all the sources accurately can be difficult.
It’s easy to lose track of files, particularly if you’re working on more than one health writing project at a time or are sourcing references as you write.
Referencing managers allow you to create your own bibliographic library that is linked to your word processing document, storing the references you cite in one database.
Automated references can also help reduce errors that can occur if you’re numbering references manually.
Referencing software can also be an efficient tool to save you time by:
- Entering or importing online citations into a database so you don’t have to type out each reference manually
- Inserting your references accurately as you move or delete content
- Creating a bibliography to fit any citation style with one click of a button
- Accurately transcribing citation information
EndNote allows you to import references from a search engine database (e.g. PubMed) to create a library of reference files. You can link this library to your work, allowing you to select references to cite as you write.
- There are a huge variety of citation styles that you can use for essentially every journal.
- Once downloaded, it can be linked easily to your word processing document.
- You can create multiple libraries at once, for each individual writing project you’re working on.
- EndNote software can be expensive unless you have access through your academic institution. There is a web-based software available called EndNote Basic, which offers a free option with reduced functionality.
- It can take a while to get used to the software and you may need to invest time into training.
- EndNote can be downloaded onto your computer but check your computer, operating system and software as some systems may not meet requirements for compatibility.
- If you’re writing for a client (not in-house) you need to make sure you unlink the EndNote fields in your word processing document before submitting. This helps make sure the text is formatted to appear as ‘plain text’.
Conclusion: EndNote is reliable software to use for a large library of files if you have access through an institution. It can otherwise be quite costly to purchase. EndNote can also take time to learn how to navigate the user interface and you may need to consider some training.
Mendeley is a free reference manager that you can download onto your Mac or Windows computer. It appears to be the more popular choice for health writers to store their references for their work based on cost and ease of transferring PDF files into the reference manager.
- The basic package is free with 2 GB of storage, however with access to an institution or a paid subscription, you can obtain extra storage.
- It is easy to use with thousands of citation styles.
- You can use the software to search for articles.
- You can sync the libraries across devices (such as an iPad or iPhone) allowing you to work remotely.
- Only Open Access full-text articles are accessible from a literature search performed in Mendeley. Alternately, you can perform a search in other external databases and save the full-text PDF files to import into Mendeley.
- There is limited free storage space (2 GB).
- It cannot work offline.
Conclusion: Mendeley is a cost-effective option for health writers, with a user-friendly interface. If you’re unsure how to use referencing software, it may a good tool to try out first before making a decision.
One final thought
Although choosing a referencing manager can be a great time-saving solution to store your references accurately, it may not always be the best tool to use for every writing project.
Some clients prefer that you don’t link your references to a database that you create, as it can create problems from their end to read the text.
It’s always best to check first before creating an externally linked bibliography to your word processing document.
Do you use referencing software for your writing projects? We would love to hear about your experiences and feel free to share in the comments below.