8. Writing and referencing tools

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Free icon Free tools are completely free to use with all features.

Freeware icon Freeware tools include basic functionality for free. Additional features may need to be paid for.

open source icon Open source tools are developed in a collaborative manner and can be used, modified or shared openly. This software can be used for free and often includes a lot of support documentation.

paid tools icon Paid tools can only be used after purchasing, and agreeing to, a product licence.


Writing is an essential activity for most university students. Which writing tool you choose will depend on a range of factors including:

  • individual or group work — some tools incorporate collaborative functionality, while some are better for individual work.
  • basic or advanced function —  if you are writing a complex or technical document you may require advanced word processing functionality.
  • availability of training —  the availability of in-person training and online help varies between writing tools.

Written assessments will often require you to reference appropriately. Referencing can be time-consuming and difficult to manage. Referencing software can make referencing easier.


Looking for help with your assignment?

Writing tools

Tool Useful features or limitations In person training Online training Cost
Microsoft Word Word is Microsoft's standard word processing software. Microsoft Word offers basic and advanced word processing functionality and is widely used. Yes Word Essential Training (Microsoft 365) (LinkedIn Learning, 2h 33m).
Word 2016: Creating Long Documents (LinkedIn Learning, 2h 17m).
paid tools
Google Docs Google Docs is web-based word processing software that you need a Google Account to use. To access Google Slides without an internet connection you need to use the Google Chrome browser and install Google Docs offline Chrome extension.
While not ideal for long-from documents, Google Docs is a great collaborative writing tool as more than one person can work on the document at a single time.
No Google Docs Essential Training (LinkedIn Learning, 1h 31m) Free
Writer (LibreOffice) Writer, via LibreOffice, is a free, open-access word processing tool. It offers much of the same functionality as Microsoft Word, including compatible file formats. Writer does not allow co-authoring of documents, so should not be adopted if you need collaborative software. No Writer Guide open source
Overleaf Overleaf is a web-based collaborative writing tool and LaTeX editor. Overleaf is ideal for students who need to include mathematical formulas. Free Overleaf Professional accounts are available to all University of Queensland students and staff. No An introduction to Overleaf (YouTube, 2m53s) paid tools

Referencing software

Tool Useful features or limitations In-person training Online training Cost
EndNote EndNote is one of the most popular referencing tools you can install on your computer or use online. When you install the EndNote program, the Cite While You Write add-in will be inserted into your word processing software. This add-in allows you to insert citations into your document, providing you use Microsoft Word or LibreOffice. No Online tutorials for EndNote 20 paid tools
Free for UQ staff & students
Mendeley Mendeley is a referencing tool you can install on your computer and use online. In addition to traditional citation support, Mendeley allows you to build a research profile and connect with other researchers. No How to use Mendeley (YouTube, 16m 53s) Freeware
Zotero Zotero is a referencing tool you can install on your computer and use online. Zotero is unique in that it offers a web browser add-on which can create automatic citations from a webpage. Zotero is run by a not-for-profit. No Getting Started with Zotero (YouTube, 4m22s) Free

Write, cite and submit has more information on referencing, including an overview of the main features of EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero.


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