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RefWorks: Adding references

Introduction to RefWorks, an online reference manager

Adding references

There are several ways of adding references to RefWorks. The option you have to choose depends on the database, catalogue, website or search engine you want to import references from.

The options are:

  • Direct export: references are 'automatically' exported from a database to RefWorks
  • Import: references are imported in RefWorks through a text-file or a RIS-file that is downloaded from a database
  • Uploading a PDF-document of the article
  • Using the browser button Save to RefWorks: a tool that scraps a webpage for information
  • Manually entering a reference

You can find more information about these options in the boxes below. How you can add references from a particular database or search engine, is explained in the step-by-step guides you can find on this page.

Which method you use, two things are the same:

  • Each imported reference gets a unique number - the ID.
  • The imported references are put in the 'Last Imported' folder. From there you can move them to your own folder(s) (see the page Folders).


When you import references from databases or catalogues, always check what has been imported. RefWorks adds the data in the way the database or catalogue sends the reference to the program. RefWorks can't check the references, only a human being knowing the context can do that. For example, it's possible a database writes the title of the article in capitals. If you don't change the reference, the title won't be correct in your bibliography. 

Direct export

Some databases have the possibility of exporting titles directly to RefWorks, usually by marking the titles and selecting the option RefWorks. RefWorks calls this the Direct Export function. The steps you have to take in a specific database can be found in on this page. Please note that it might be necessary to turn on a VPN connection (such as EduVPN) when working off-campus to make Direct export work properly.

An example of Direct export: Google Scholar

In Google Scholar, it's possible to import titles into RefWorks. Records are imported one at a time. You have to activate the option to export to RefWorks in Google Scholar before you start searching:

  1. Open Google Scholar (
  2. Click in the left upper corner of the screen on the hamburger icon
  3. Choose Settings
  4. At the bottom of the screen, you'll find the option Bibliography manager.
  5. Mark Show links to import citations into.. and select RefWorks.
  6. Click the button Save to save your choice.

When you perform a search in Google Scholar, you will see the option Import into RefWorks under the titles. With this link you can import the titles one by one.

Please note: in the export from Google Scholar the DOI is always missing! This Digital Object Identifier is a required field in many output styles. You have to add this information to the reference yourself.


There are databases and catalogues without a direct export option. It's possible to add references from these databases to RefWorks with the Import option. You first save the titles and then you upload that file in RefWorks.

In general, this works as follows:

  1. Perform a search in the database or catalogue.
  2. Mark the titles you want to add to RefWorks.
  3. Export the titles and save them as a text file (.txt) or a RIS-file.
  4. Open ProQuest RefWorks and log in.
  5. Click on Add in the bar on top of the screen and select Import References
  6. Click Select a file from your computer and browse to the file
  7. In most cases RefWorks will recognize the type of the file. Otherwise you will be prompted to select the type of file and - when needed - the database.
  8. Click Import
  9. RefWorks shows how many documents are imported. Click the button OK to see the reference in Last Imported. 

Upload a PDF-document

In ProQuest RefWorks you can upload a PDF-document - RefWorks will 'read' this document and extract the information needed, like the author(s), title, volume, issue, DOI, etc. 

  1. Click on Add in the bar on top of the screen and select Upload document
  2. Browse to the PDF-document(s), select it or them and click Open

ProQuest RefWorks will upload the file(s) and extract the metadata from the pdf-document(s). This can take some time. Make sure you check the information extracted!

Save to RefWorks browser button

The Save to RefWorks browser button is only available for ProQuest RefWorks. You can add this button to your browser (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox): 

  • Click Tools in the bar on top of the screen and select Tools
  • Click the button Install Save to RefWorks
  • Drag the button to the favorites bar of the browser 

When you visit a webpage with information you would like to export to RefWorks, for example a book on Amazon or an article on the website of the publisher, you can click the Save to RefWorks button. A RefWorks bar will open on the right side of the screen, with the metadata RefWorks have found and recognized on the page. You can add missing metadata. In some cases RefWorks will try to save to full-text as well. Click Save to RefWorks at the bottom of the bar to add the information to your RefWorks database.

Manually adding a reference

Sometimes, you can add references only manually, for example, titles you've found in the bibliography of a book.

Manually entering references into ProQuest RefWorks works as follows:

  1. Open ProQuest RefWorks and log in.
  2. Click on Add in the bar on top of the screen and select Create new reference
  3. On the right side of the screen a window opens
  4. Select behind Ref Type the correct document type. You can choose journal article, journal, book, work of art, etc.
  5. Enter information into the fields. At the top you see the fields used most often for the selected reference type. Under Add more fields... you can find extra fields, like DOI.
  6. Click on Save at the top of the window.

Do you want to manually enter journal articles? When you enter the title of the article or the DOI, you can use the 'lightning bolt' button to retrieve the rest of the metadata. After clicking the button you get a list of options. Select the one you are looking for, edit the metadata when necessary and click Save at the top of the window.