Skip to Main Content

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. 

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 or Zotero, 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?
  • Does the software enable you to meet the University's IT and other requirements?  Where it is intended that University data may be placed online in personally obtained accounts, the University’s data security, cloud storage policies, and GDPR obligations apply.
  • 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 some of the reference management tools that are available, see the reference management software comparison from the Technischen Universität München.

Proquest RefWorks

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.


EndNote desktop is available to SHU staff.  Find out more on 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 Clarivate, who are the producers of EndNote.

RefWorks (Classic/Legacy)

Please do not start using Legacy RefWorks as this software is due to be retired by the company that produces it in June 2023.

If you are currently using Legacy RefWorks you can transfer your references and folder structure to a Proquest RefWorks account.   If you have multiple Legacy RefWorks accounts, these can be migrated to separate 'Projects' in a Proquest RefWorks account.

You can find more information about upgrading on our Legacy upgrade pages.

Reference management for systematic reviews

Reference management software may help you to store and organise references, deduplicate your results and share your references with colleagues.

If you are undertaking a systematic literature review you may wish to consider using software specifically for systematic reviews, such as Covidence, which can also support other aspects of a review, such as screening and data extraction.

Covidence systematic review software

Covidence is an online software tool that supports the systematic review process and is available to SHU staff and students.  

It is most suitable for research staff and doctoral students conducting systematic reviews.

It can be used to import and deduplicate references, screen references (both title/abstract and full-text), create and populate data extraction forms and populate risk of bias tables. You can also invite your review team colleagues to work with you on your review. 

If you are looking for a way to share references with others and do not need the other functionality in Covidence, then the group work and sharing options in Proquest RefWorks may be more appropriate. 

You can export lists of studies from Covidence to reference management software, such as RefWorks, if you wish to create a reference list or bibliography.

To find out if Covidence might be useful to you with your review, have a look at the introductory video below.

How to Access Covidence

At SHU we have a one year institutional licence for Covidence (starting October 2022).

This page about Covidence at SHU includes instructions on how to create an account.  If you already have a free account, you can link this to the SHU licence.

Help with Covidence

Covidence provides a lot of a support with how to use the software:

  • a detailed Knowledge Base.
  • video tutorials to guide you through the main features.
  • the Covidence academy with information and step-by-step guides to help you to understand the theory as well as learn more about how to use the platform
  • You can also email Covidence with your questions using the ? (help) button in Covidence.

Support for using Covidence is provided by the resources above and not by the Library.


Covidence run regular one hour training webinars.  To find out when the next webinar is taking place and to sign up, look on their page about upcoming webinars.  There is also a link for you to view a recording of a recent introductory webinar.

Adsetts Library [map pdf]
Collegiate Library [map pdf]

Sheffield Hallam University
City Campus, Howard Street
Sheffield S1 1WB
Sheffield Hallam Library Signifier