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Library Research Support

Reference management

It makes sense to keep track of the information sources you have found, read or intend to read.   Having a systematic way of doing this will enable you to spend more of your time on your research and less of your time on the basics of managing your information such as storing and retrieving your sources. It will also make it easier for you to create bibliographies when you need to.

You need to have a system which is:

  • compatible with the way you work
  • flexible enough to meet your needs
  • safe and secure
  • consistent

You may have your own way of doing this already, but you could consider using reference management software. You can see how a reference management tool works in our RefWorks video.


RefWorks may not work well for large scale systematic reviews owing to speed issues; if you are doing this please contact us to discuss your options.  Please also note that the deduplication function in Proquest RefWorks is limited.  See below for more details

EndNote is not available to students.

What is reference management software?

This software enables you to:

  • Create your own database of the information sources you are interested in
  • Import references from databases, Library Search, Google Scholar and other sources
  • Organise your references into folders on different subjects or for different purposes
  • Share references with others
  • Choose a referencing style from a large selection
  • Automatically insert citations within the text of a document
  • Automatically create a bibliography or reference list in a document

There are a number of different tools you can use.  SHU subscribes to RefWorks and EndNote, but there are also free options that you could consider.

How to choose reference management software

Below are some suggestions for what to consider when choosing your software:

  • Does it offer the functionality you need? For example you may wish to use software which enables you to manage the results of systematic database searches, or you may be looking for a tool to manage your collection of PDF files.
  • Does it fit with your workflow?
  • Do you need to use it across multiple devices? For example, at work and at home?
  • Is it compatible with your computer, browser and word processor?
  • Can you import references from the databases, etc. that you use?
  • Will it offer the sharing / collaboration you need?
  • If you need a specific referencing style, does the software support this?
  • Which software is used by your colleagues or supervisor? They may have a recommendation and if you need to collaborate, it may help you to choose the same software.

If you are considering using ‘free’ software such as Mendeley, Zotero, Qiqqa, Colwiz, Citavi, etc. we recommend that you also consider:

  • Is it really free, or to get full functionality and enough storage space do you need to subscribe?
  • Is there a desktop version or other tool that needs to be installed? If so, can it be installed on SHU computers?
  • Will your details and library of sources be private if you want them to be and are they secure?
  • Is it an established product and likely to remain available. Be careful not to invest time into an app or other product that may become unavailable.
  • Can your references / documents / annotations be exported to other software if necessary. This may be necessary if the software becomes unavailable in the future or you wish to use another tool.

If you would like to discuss the options with us, please contact the Library Research Support Team : Email: Call: (0114) 225 3852

Comparisons of reference management software

For a  detailed comparison of RefWorks and EndNote and a comparison with other tools, see the reference management software comparison from the Technischen Universität München.

Proquest RefWorks (New)

Proquest RefWorks is the university supported reference management tool, and is a good option for most researchers. Please see the RefWorks section of the referencing guide for more information on creating an account and using the system.

Note: Proquest Refworks does not work well for large scale systematic reviews owing to speed issues and problems with deduplication; if you are doing this please contact us to discuss your options.

RefWorks (Classic/Legacy)

If you are using Legacy Refworks there is no problem with you continuing to do so.

Some important points:

Importing references

For many databases you can use the ‘Export to Refworks’ option; this will be available through a ‘Save’ or ‘Download’ option. Be sure to select ‘LegacyRefworks’ when prompted.

Working with Word documents

  • documents created with Write-n-Cite/ ProQuest for Word using Legacy RefWorks can’t be modified with Proquest RefWorks, and vice-versa.   This means that if you are currently working on a Word document and are inserting references from your Legacy RefWorks account using Write-N-Cite, you should continue to use Legacy RefWorks.
  • if you wish to use Write-n-Cite, you need version 4.4.1376 or later to be installed in Microsoft Word.  This version will allow you to use either version of RefWorks but you cannot use both to work on the same document. To install Write-n-Cite:
    • On your own computer, login to RefWorks.
    • Click on the “Tools” menu and then select the “Write-N-Cite” option.  You should see the options to download this tool.

Transferring to Proquest RefWorks

Please look at the Referencing tools page  for information about how to set up an account in Proquest Refworks.

If you change your mind, you can return to using Legacy RefWorks while it continues to be available.  Your references and folders will still be there. However, if you imported your references into Proquest RefWorks and then make updates or additions in Proquest RefWorks, the updates and additions will not appear in Legacy RefWorks.


A good place to find out more is the SHU guide to getting started with EndNote. This covers getting set up with EndNote and using Cite-While-you-Write. There are also links to tutorials and videos from the producers of EndNote.

Reference management for systematic reviews

Reference management software  is commonly used to store and organise references and PDFs of articles and to create citations and bibliographies or reference lists.

If you are undertaking a systematic literature review you may also want to consider using reference management software to help you with the following:

  • keeping separate sets of references for multiple projects or reviews
  • sharing collections of references when working collaboratively on a project or review
  • deduplicating results from multiple databases
  • creating a list of references for screening using inclusion/exclusion criteria
  • record keeping  and reporting

The following suggest how you may be able to do this in Legacy RefWorks or Proquest RefWorks

How to: Legacy RefWorks Proquest RefWorks
Maintain separate reference collections for different research projects. Create separate Legacy RefWorks accounts Use projects within your account to keep references for different projects separate.
Work collaboratively on a review or project Share a RefWorks account login details with other RefWorks users (having created an account that doesn’t use your personal login details).  Note that they will be able to do all the same functions that you can – including delete. Share a project with other Proquest RefWorks users.  They will be able to add, delete and modify folders and references.  Note that they can also delete the whole project.
Keep records for reporting purposes Create a folder structure to store references from particular databases, searches, etc. Create a folder structure to store references from particular databases, searches, etc.
De-duplicate references from multiple databases or sources You can deduplicate your whole database or deduplicate a specific folder.  When deduplicating a folder, your can choose to delete the duplicates from your database or just remove them from that folder (keeping them in your database for your records) Deduplication is possible but only to a maximum of 2000 references
Export references for screening Create a bibliography  (you will need to edit the output style to include the abstract, RefID or other fields you need).  Alternatively export references into Microsoft Excel using ‘Export’ in ‘Tab delimited’ format.   Create a bibliography  (you will need to edit the output style to include the abstract, RefID or other fields you need).  Alternatively export references into Microsoft Excel using ‘Share’ then ‘Tab delimited’ format.
Help with how to do this Legacy RefWorks help Proquest RefWorks guide: managing references

Please note that as both versions of RefWorks are web based, you may experience slowness or failure when working with very large numbers of references.  If you review is likely to contain many thousands of references, alternative software may be more appropriate.  If this applies to you, please contact us to discuss your options.