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.

Please note that EndNote is not available to students.

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

We have produced a comparison of RefWorks and EndNote to help you to choose between these options.

Reference management software comparison for staff and researchers March 2017

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

RefWorks (Classic / Legacy)

You find out how to get started with using RefWorks from our SHU Guide to RefWorks which also covers how to import references, using Write-n-Cite in Microsoft Word to create citations and references and links to more.

RefWorks does not require installation on University PCs, however you may need to ask for Write-N-Cite (Proquest for Word) to be installed. Please contact IT Help (

There is a New version of RefWorks available

Proquest RefWorks (New)

Proquest have released a new version of their reference management software, RefWorks. In the future, this will be a replacement for the version of RefWorks which has been available from the library for many years, now termed Legacy RefWorks. Legacy RefWorks is likely to stop being available sometime in 2019, but an exact date for this has not been decided by Proquest.

  • If you are already using Legacy RefWorks and are happy with it, we recommend that you continue to use it, especially if your project(s) are to be completed before 2019. Proquest RefWorks does not yet include all the functionality you may require and is still undergoing development and bug fixing
  •  If you are currently working on a Microsoft Word document created with Write-N-Cite and Legacy RefWorks you should stay with Legacy RefWorks. It will not be possible to edit the document using Proquest RefWorks
  • If you are undertaking a long term project that is likely to progress well into 2019 or beyond, you may wish to consider your options. It is possible to import your references and folders from Legacy RefWorks to Proquest RefWorks now or in the future, but Word documents created with Write-n-Cite using Legacy RefWorks can’t be modified with Proquest RefWorks

New RefWorks does have some features that may be of interest, particularly relating to PDFs of articles. If you would like to try it, please read our pages: Should I transfer from Legacy RefWorks to Proquest RefWorks?

If you are not currently using RefWorks, but think it may be helpful to you, please have a look at this page to see which may be the best version for you: Should I start using Legacy RefWorks or Proquest 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

Please note that EndNote is not available to students.