Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Finding Sources: Keeping track of your sources

An introduction to finding evidence to support your assignments

What is reference management?

Once you have found useful sources, you will want to save the PDF, add the website to your favourites or otherwise keep track.  

You can also note the reference details separately and possibly add brief summary notes.  This is known as reference management.

York Information Services (2020) Reference management software: how it works & what it does.  Available at: (Accessed: 7 December 2020).

"Reference or publication details" - what does that mean?

The reference or publication details are the information someone needs to locate an item.  This information can usually be divided into 4 elements:

  • Who wrote or is responsible for the item?
    • Author(s) or organization.
  • When was it created? 
    • Usually, this means the publication year only, if provided.
  • What is it called?
    • Title.
  • Where can it be found? The information that enables someone else to locate the item.  Typically:
    • Place of publication and publisher (book; DVD; game)
    • Web address and date you accessed the site (online documents).  Occasionally, this may be the unique DOI number for a PDF.
    • Journal title, volume, issue and page numbers.
    • Name of Blog/ social media/ restricted access website and other identifying information.

Using a guide as an example;

  • Who = UWS Library;
  • When = (no date);
  • What = Finding Sources: Managing your sources;
  • Where = (Accessed 28 April 2021).


For Cite Them Right, the resulting reference is:

UWS Library (no date) Finding Sources. Available at: (Accessed: 28 April 2021).

Why are you recommending I manage my references?

Have you had that moment when you know you've read something really useful but can't remember what it was or where you found it? 

Reference management helps you avoid those stressful moments.  After all:

  • Having the details of items you have consulted when preparing an assignment gives you flexibility when you come to write, and add references to, your assignment.
  • You might later want to add a reference to your assignment for an item that you initially rejected.
  • Adding brief notes about an item as you read it helps you to differentiate between items on the same topic at a later date, e.g. when you come to write your assignment. See also our Evaluating Sources guide - you might want to add a comment about the quality or credibility of the source.
  • A book, article, website or other source found when investigating one topic may also apply to another assignment or project.

So, how do I go about this?

Choose the method that works for you then get into the habit of noting relevant sources as you access them.

  • You can manually add reference details to a Word document or Excel spreadsheet.  Keep this separate from your submission document.
  • Alternatively, sign up and use one of the many specialist online tools.

But this is the same as referencing, isn't it?

No, reference management is about storing the details, in case you want to create a reference in the future. 

You will usually consult many more items than you reference in your assignments.


Referencing involves formatting the details in a specific way, IF you've mentioned the item in the preceding text.

See Referencing at UWS for more on referencing.

Help & Support

  • Email 
  • Ask at a campus library Info Point
  • Telephone 0141 848 3888

Is there an online tool that will help me ?

Yes, there are a wide range of online reference management products available.  Some are free; others charge; some are limited in the features on offer; others are so versatile you can use them from your first term in university right through to PhD and beyond. 

The most versatile products/ tools include:

  • EndNote - versatile; available free to staff and students via UWS subscription.  There are 2 options available:
    • EndNote Online includes step-by-step guidance and useful as a first product.
    • EndNote Desktop - currently EndNote20 is a more versatile product, recommended for higher level researchers.
  • Mendeley - versatile; free (sometimes with ads).  Modern setup with options to easily collaborate with others.  A wide range of user guides are available. 
  • RefWorks - versatile subscription-based service.  A free option for those working in, and/or studying with, NHS Scotland or Social Care Services who have a Knowledge Network login. A range of user guides and videos are listed on the RefWorks page.
  •  Zotero - versatile, free and easy to use.  A wide range of guides is available

Still not sure what one is best for you?  Check out some of the many online comparison sites, e.g. Ref-N-Write's 2018 Top Referencing Tools and Reference Management Software for Academic Writing blog post.

Reference management to referencing

Step 1 Gathering your reference details

Add the details to your chosen storage location, e.g. EndNote, then group your entries as relevant.

Screenshot of pathway from gathering adding references to EndNote then grouping them


Step 2: Add your references to your MS Word document

The pathway shown is for EndNote.  Variations will apply for other methods.

Screenshot of pathway from opening MS Word to generating a reference list

Copyright Statement

Creative Commons License
This work in this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.