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Reference management software preferences among liberal arts faculty

Nicholas Lonergan (Waidner-Spahr Library, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 13 November 2017




The purpose of this study was to determine faculty preferences and attitudes regarding reference management software (RMS) to improve the library’s support and training programs.


A short, online survey was emailed to approximately 272 faculty.


Survey results indicated that multiple RMS were in use, with faculty preferring Zotero over the library-supported RefWorks. More than 40 per cent did not use any RMS.

Research limitations/implications

The relatively short length of the survey precluded a more detailed investigation of faculty attitudes. The 20 per cent response rate, although typical of surveys of this type, may over-represent those faculty who have strong attitudes toward RMS. These findings support the necessity of doing more research to establish the parameters of the RMS environment among faculty, with implications for support, instruction and outreach at the institutional level.

Practical implications

Surveys should be conducted to establish local faculty RMS usage and preferences, as they may differ from both published findings and local expectations. Because it is unlikely that faculty will overwhelmingly use one RMS, libraries should plan to support multiple RMS.


This study is among the first to investigate the issue of RMS faculty preferences in a liberal arts setting.



Lonergan, N. (2017), "Reference management software preferences among liberal arts faculty", Reference Services Review, Vol. 45 No. 4, pp. 584-595.



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