How to manage your publication data and references

Organising research data is important and mandatory according to “Gute Wissenschaftliche Praxis“. But maintaining publication data is of great value since it speeds up your work when writing a paper for publication or your PhD.

There are many different products (have a look at this RMS-list) but I will introduce you to three different programs. That should be sufficient to choose from. You will learn about their pros and cons and how you can benefit from those. Two of those a proprietary which means you need a licence for using them. I will show how you can get the licence of the RWTH University Aachen if you are an associated member (staff or student).

For a detailed overview of all three products visit the webpage of RWTH library.


Citavi is a heavy weight tool which allows you to manage not only your publication data (you can link pdfs to the entries, etc.) but it is also a project management tool. You can organize all the literature you want to read, have read or you want to use in certain sections of your paper you are about to write. This might be very helpful for big projects as your PhD is!

There is also a plug-in for Word etc., so you have access to the database from your document and can select the proper citation style for the bibliography.

It is a great tool I recomment, especially if you can you the licence of the university. But is there anything not so good about it? Yes, unfortunately the development of Citiavi for macOS was abondend some years ago. If you have a Mac-computer you need to switch to another programm, such as Endnote or Zotero – which is explained below (or use a virtual Windows-environment…).

Further information

For some detailed information have a look at the Citavi-Info page of the RWTH library.

How to get a licence?

Browse to and type ‘RWTH Aachen’, you will be redirected to the “Single-Sign-On-Site” of the university where you have to log in with your TIM-ID.
Then you can download the software for which you automatically get a licence for.


Endnote is a very good alternative to Citavi. However it only has an english interface it also has a web version so you can easily access your data from anywhere. Endnote works very well for researchers in medicine, you even can access PubMed or the OPAC of the RWTH from within Endnote and connect PDFs with the publication entries.

You also have a plug-in for Word etc. to insert publication references into your paper or PhD you write.

Further information

For some detailed information have a look at the Endnote-Info page of the RWTH library.

How to get a licence?

Ok, this is a little bit more work. But it is doable, no worries. Browse to the software-shop of RWTH Aachen University, log in with your credentials (TIM-ID).

You have to select “Privatbesteller Mitarbeiter” / “Privatbesteller Student”, then browse to “Endnote” and choose the right version. Check-out your basket (you may have to update your postal address etc.) and confirm the licence agreements. You will immediatly receive an email with a link (ftp://….) open this link with your browser. You can download and install the software.

During the installation process you are asked for the product-key/licence which you find in the “ITC_Readme.txt” file which is also available in the folder of the mentioned link.

That’s about all.


Maybe you are not a member of the UKA or the RWTH or you prefer non-proprietary software? Then Zotero is built for you. Zotero is available for all common OS (Windows, macOS, Linux) and it even has a browser-Addon so you can easily add literature to your database while surfing through the net.

Similar to Endnote you can also search the OPAC of the RWTH by using a plug-in and you can have a plug-in for your text processing program (Word, LibreOffice etc.) to insert references right away.

Zotero is also great for collaborative work with your colleagues.

Further information

For some detailed information have a look at the Zotero-Info page of the RWTH library.

How to get a licence?

That’s the great part about Zotero – since it is an open-access-software you can use it without being an affiliated member of the RWTH Aachen University.

The software is available on the download-page of Zotero.

Ok, let’s wrap it up. There are many reference management products and I introduced just some of those. They all have certain advantages and depending on your operating system you may not be able to work with all.

If you have Windows and you are about to start your PhD or are still in the beginning take your time and learn Citavi. It is worth it and from time to time there are also courses available.

The other two programs are also fine to use. At least use one reference mangement system – you won’t regret it. I am sure.

This is the newsletter of the CRC 1382 in which regularly topics regarding (good) research data managements are discussed.

The information provided are selected by the data steward Dr. Lukas C. Bossert.
They are tailored to meet the standards and requirements of the UKA and RWTH.

If you think that the tips and tricks provided do not fit to your data I would be happy to discuss it and take a look at your data and its organization.