Collecting Citations?

This question may be a bit broader than Scrivener but I thought I’d ask as Scrivener is the writing platform I’m using.

So I don’t get how to grab a citation and bring it into Scrivener. If I find an article in a database and it offers me the ability to export the citation - can Scrivener take it and store it somehow? Do I need an intermediary step? (I think so.) Is there an open source one that everyone likes and uses?

I’m an author, not at an institution, would love not to spend $$ like I see for a range of third-party tools. But maybe it’s necessary? Happy to be directed to tutorials etc.

thanks for helping!

How many citations do you have?

If you export a citation as text, then you can import it into Scrivener’s Binder and treat it like any other document, including labeling with metadata and organizing based on that information. You can pull together a folder full of such items and call it a bibliography. This is what I do, and it works fine for moderate numbers of citations, probably up to a few dozen. But from Scrivener’s point of view, the citations are still just text. Citation management and formatting will still be pretty much up to you.

If, on the other hand, you have a multi-year project with hundreds or thousands of citations, you may find that a dedicated bibliography manager justifies its existence by giving you much more sophisticated tools for managing citations and reformatting them to match whatever your output requirements are.


It really does depend on what you want to do with those citations. If all you want is somewhere to store the content of a few references, then you could just drag the content into the research folder of Scrivener (or copy and paste). If, however, you want to automatically insert citations into your text as you write, then you will need a citation manager. Again, if you only have a few references, then it’s probably overkill to do this and you could just enter them manually. However, once you get to more than a couple of dozen citations, then the time you save will more than justify the price. Also, if you are writing for different audiences that use different citation styles, then a citation manager is a godsend.

Although I mainly use EndNote for my academic writing (it is powerful, very flexible, my collaborators use it and my university provides it for free) it is very expensive if you need to pay full price. It is also, to be blunt, ugly. A better designed, and generally more usable, alternative is Papers. It’s still not cheap (unless you compare it to EndNote, then it seems ridiculously affordable) but if you use a lot of in-text citations you will not regret it. In addition drag’n’drop citations, it will store all your references and (where possible) automatically download the citation data. They have just released version 3.0 (not yet installed on my system, so I can’t comment on it yet).

Note that one of the main benefits of using a citation manager, opposed to just inserting the references manually, is that it can create your reference list at the end. Depending on the length of your work (or how many pieces you write) this could save days.

I can only second this tip about Papers 3. I have been trying various reference softwares since the early 1990s and always returned to my paper-copy library and manually fixing all the references in my articles, because I have never found a software that really helps me in my work. Until now. Papers 3, Scapple and Scrivener are my major softwares now, for the non-statistical part of my scientific work.

Can you point me to a tutorial that will teach me how to integrate “Papers” citations into a Scrivener project? Thanks.


Here you go. It’s for Papers 2 but the principles should be the same for Papers3 (I haven’t started using citations with Papers 3 so apologies if there is some massive change I’m not aware of). … -citations