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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. 


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, 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?
  • Does the software enable you to meet the University's IT requirements, for example on cloud storage?
  • 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.

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


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.

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 suggests how you might consider doing this in RefWorks and also highlights some limitations of this software.

How to: Proquest RefWorks
Maintain separate reference collections for different research projects. Use projects within your account to keep references for different projects separate.
Work collaboratively on a review or project 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.
De-duplicate references from multiple databases or sources 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 ‘Share’ then ‘Tab delimited’ format.
Help with how to do this Proquest RefWorks guide: managing references

Please note that as RefWorks is 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.

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.

Please contact us for more information.