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RefWorks and reference management

A how-to guide for the reference management software, Refworks

Adding references into RefWorks

Having references in RefWorks means that you can organise your research and keep track of what you've read. It also makes it much easier to reference your essays correctly and create bibliographies in the appropriate style. Adding references to RefWorks will save you time in the long run. There are a number of ways to add references into RefWorks, depending on the database/search tool that you are using for your research:

Direct export from a database

Downloading and importing a text file from a database

Drag and drop PDFs into RefWorks

Adding references manually

Use the 'Save to RefWorks' browser extension

Use the tabs below for guidance on how to add references into New RefWorks from some commonly used databases. If you use one that is not listed here, one of these techniques should still apply.

You can find videos on the four main ways of adding references to RefWorks on our YouTube channel as part of our RefWorks series.

At the bottom of the page you'll find instructions on how to import/export references from/to other reference management software.


Quality Checking Your References

It's good practice to quality check any reference you import, or add manually. If any information is missing, you may end up with incorrect citations or errors in any reference lists you generate.

You can check for errors by doing the following:

1. When logged into RefWorks, click on 'All Documents'.

2. Click the 'Normal View' button in the bottom right-hand corner then click the cog icon beside 'Citation View'.

3. Select Cite Them Right — Harvard (SGUL & FHSCE) and click 'Save'.

4. You'll now see the full bibliographic information for your references. Any missing information will be highlighted in yellow.

5. Correct any missing information manually by clicking on these yellow highlights.


Adding references to RefWorks

Hunter, EBSCO (CINAHL/Medline), Ovid (Medline, PsycInfo, Embase), Internurse/Intermid/Allied Health Professionals, Google Scholar

These databases have an 'Export' or 'Send to RefWorks' button that allows you to send references directly from the database straight into your RefWorks account. Some allow you to export multiple references at a time, others only support exporting references individually.

See the images below for examples of where you can find the export feature in our most commonly used search tools.

When using the direct export functions, you will usually need to be logged into RefWorks first. You may also be required to select which version of RefWorks to 'send' it to: so if you are using New RefWorks, make sure to select the correct option:










Under an item's Hunter entry where it says "Send to", click the "RefWorks" button.




Click "Export" to the right, then select "Direct Export to RefWorks" and click save.



Ovid (Medline, PsycInfo, Embase)

Tick the box by the item you'd like to export. Then click "Export" above, and select "RefWorks" from the "export to" drop down menu. Click "export citations" below to export.



Internurse/Intermid/Allied Health Professionals

When viewing an article, click "tools" then "download citations".


Google Scholar

You'll need to change your settings in Google Scholar to activate the citation import feature. Click the three horizontal lines in the top left corner, click 'Settings', then scroll down to 'Bibliography manager'. Make sure the option to import citations into RefWorks is selected, then save your settings.


You should then see a link below each search result to import that citation into RefWorks.


If you need any help with database searching, please don't hesitate to get in touch with your liaison librarian by emailing

PubMed, Cochrane Library

Some databases such as PubMed and Cochrane Library will allow you to download reference and citation information as a .nbib, .txt or .ris file. Once you have saved this file to your computer, you can then add the information to RefWorks by doing the following:

1. Click on All Documents

2. Click on Add (the + icon)

3. Click 'Import References', then navigate to the document you wish to upload, or drag and drop it into RefWorks.


The images below will show you how to save a file of your chosen citations in PubMed and Cochrane Library:



Select the results you wish to export, click the 'Send to' feature at the top of your results, then choose 'Citation manager' before creating a file:

Screenshot of Pubmed - how to export citation file

Once you have clicked on 'Citation manager', a new window will appear. Choose 'create file' and a .nbib file will be created, which you can drag and drop or upload to RefWorks.


Cochrane Library

Select the results you wish to export, then choose to save your citations to RefWorks:




Sometimes you may have a physical resource which you would like to save to RefWorks. In this instance, you can save the bibliographic information manually:

1. Click on All Documents

2. Click on Add (the + icon)

3. Click 'Create New Reference', then select the type of reference you would like to create from the drop down menu e.g. journal article, book etc.

4. Add as much information as possible, before clicking Save.

RefWorks does have a feature in which it will try to find you a match based on the information you type in. We'd recommend double-checking the details in these suggestions before choosing a match. If in doubt, you can manually add the information yourself, as above.

The video below shows a demonstration of adding a reference manually:


If you have saved any PDFs of articles you've found during your literature searches, you can drag and drop them (or upload them) into RefWorks. Any bibliographic information associated with the PDF will create a record in RefWorks:

1. Save a PDF file to your device,

2. Drag and drop your file into All Documents in your RefWorks account.


1. Click on All Documents

2. Click on Add (the + icon)

3. Click 'Upload document', then navigate to the document you wish to upload.


Your document will then be added to your list of references. A small document icon will appear below the reference information when a file has been attached.

Remember! Bibliographic information found in PDFs might not be complete. You may need to manually add bibliographic details that are missing.

Save to RefWorks is a plugin that you can install in your browser's favourites (bookmarks) bar. When you are browsing a website that has references or citations that you would like to add to your account,  you can simply click on the button and RefWorks will attempt to save this information and any associated full-text documents (if available).

To install Save to RefWorks:

1. Ensure that your browser's favorites toolbar is currently visible in your browser.

2. In RefWorks, select Tools > Tools. The Tools page appears.

3. Select Install Save to RefWorks. A dialog box appears.

4. Drag and drop the Save to RefWorks plugin to your browser's favorites toolbar. The plugin is installed.

5. Click anywhere on the page to close the dialog box.


Save to RefWorks should work on any up-to-date browser.

The video below will start playing at 1 min 24 seconds, where you can see a demonstration of how to install the Save to RefWorks button as well an an example of saving website content to RefWorks.


Importing References from other software

It's possible to import existing references from other reference management software. You can import directly from another RefWorks account or from your Mendeley account. For other tools, such as Zotero, you can import a file that you have exported from that manager. Also see Exporting References to a File.

To import citations from a citation manager:
  1. To import references from a citation manager other than RefWorks or Mendeley, export them from that citation manager to one of the following formats: NLM PubMed, RefWorks Tagged, RefWorks XML, RIS, or Thomson Reuters format. For example:
    • Zotero: Select the references and select Export Selected Items from the right-click menu. Select RIS and save the file.
    • EndNote: 1) Select Edit > Output Styles > Open Style Manager and select RefMan (RIS) Export. 2) In your library, select the references, select File > Export, and save the file as RefMan (RIS) Export.
    • ReadCube: From the library view, select the article or articles, select Export to RefMan (RIS) file from the right-click menu, and save the file.
    • Papers: In your library, highlight the references, select File > Export ..., select Refman RIS, and save the file.
  2. Select Add > Import references. The Import from another reference manager page appears.
  3. To import from RefWorks or Mendeley, select the relevant action and select Authorize. The login page of the relevant citation manager appears. Log in to the citation manager.

    Otherwise, drag and drop the file containing the list of exported references or select select a file from your computer, select the file, select the relevant format (and, for RIS or Thomson Reuters formats, select the closest matching database), and select Import. Your citations are copied from the other citation manager to RefWorks.

    In both cases, your citations are added to RefWorks.


You can export your references so that another user can import them without logging in to your account, or in order to import them to another citation manager. Also see Importing References.

To export references:
  1. Optionally navigate to the folder you want to export, or from All Documents) or from any search results, select Share > Export references. The Export references dialog box appears.

    Export References
  2. Select whether to export all references in the current folder / search results or only selected references.
  3. Select the output format: BibTeX, RIS, tab-delimited, or XML.
  4. Select Export. The references are exported, including their field names. In a tab-delimited file, the first row contains the field names.