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RefWorks: Managing references

Introduction to RefWorks, an online reference manager

Managing references

You can manage the references you have imported in your RefWorks database. You can:

The display of the references

The order of the references

In the right upper corner, behind Sort by, you can choose the order of your references, for example alphabetically by name of the first author or chronologically, by the date published.

The display of the references

By default the references are shown in Normal View: the author(s), publication date and title are shown. 

To check the references it can be useful to see them as they will be in your literature list, for example in the APA 6th style. By default, you see the references in ‘Normal view’: the author(s) and title are visible. In the right upper corner of the screen, you can change this view into a particular style, including APA 6th. Viewing the references in a style you are familiar with can help to see if a reference is complete and correct.

  1. Click Normal View in the right upper corner of the screen
  2. Click the cog symbol behind Citation View
  3. Search the style you want to use, by typing in part of the name
  4. Select the style (for example APA 6th – American Psychological Association, 6th edition)
  5. Click Save

When you have marked the option 'Highlight missing metadata' RefWorks will highlight missing fields that are required or recommended for the selected citation style. This can be very helpful when checking the references!

Other views are Table View and Full View:

  • Table View shows the references in a table format, which makes it easier to sort the information. This view is limited to 2.000 references.
  • When you select Full View you will see all information available in your RefWorks database for each reference. 

The order of the references

In the tab References you find the option Sort by. There you choose the order of your references, for example alphabetically by name of the first author or chronologically, by the year of publication.

The display of the references

The default display, or view, is the 'Standard View'. The title, author(s) and source are shown. Under Change View you can also choose 'One Line/Cite View': author(s), year and source are placed in one line. The other option is 'Full View'. All information of a reference is visible, like author(s), abstracts, etc.

Next to these three standard display options, you can also choose to display the references as they will be in a literature list, using a certain output style. You can choose this style yourself, you can add up to three output styles to the list under Change View.

Adding a style to this menu works as follows:

  1. Click Customize at the top of the screen.
  2. Behind Output Styles Choices for Reference View, you can select three output styles, for example, APA or the style of a specific journal.
  3. Click on Save Customized Setings at the bottom of the page and close the screen.
  4. When you go back to the list of references (and refresh the page), you will see that the styles have been added to the list under Change View.

Standard View

One Line/Cite View

View in APA style

Full View


References are automatically saved in Last Imported.  But you can create your own folders to save the references in a convenient way: for example a folder per (sub)topic, a folder per database or a folder per chapter.

Creating a folder

  1. Click My Folders in the menu on the left side of the screen
  2. Click +Add folder
  3. Give the folder a name
  4. Click Save.
  5. The created folder can be found by clicking My Folders

It’s also possible to create subfolders – folders within a folder. Click the three dots behind the name of the folder and choose Add subfolder and give the folder a name.

Moving references to a folder

Now you can put the references you have imported into the new folder.

  1. Open Last imported – this folder contains the references added to RefWorks most recently.
  2. Mark the references
  3. Click Assign to Folder in the top menu
  4. Mark the folder(s)
  5. When you use the Normal View the name of the folder will be visible below the reference. The name of the folder is not visible when you use a Citation View.

You can also ‘drag and drop’ references: scroll over the reference, then drag it to the folder on the left side of the screen. 

Please note: the number behind the name of a folder refers to the number of references in that folder and in the subfolder(s) of that folder. This means that when a reference is in both the parent folder and a subfolder, it is counted twice.

If you use Refworks to manage references of several research projects, it can be useful to also divide these in Projects. Each Project starts its Ref ID's at 0. In the blue top bar of Refworks, next to the ProQuest Refworks icon on the left, you can select your Project. Create or delete projects by clicking on 'Manage projects.' You can also share access Projects here, by selecting this option from the 'Action' dropdown menu. 

Imported references are always first placed in the folder 'Last Imported'. If you don't move the references to your own folder(s), they will be available in the folder 'Not in folder'.

Creating a new folder is easy:

  1. Click on the button New Folder.
  2. If you want to make a subfolder (a folder within a folder), click the link Create Subfolder and select the Parent folder
  3. Enter a name and click Create.

There is no maximum number of folders that you can create. A reference can be saved in several folders.

There are two ways to add references to a folder:

  • Click on the grey bar just above the reference summary (the part with the Ref ID) then drag it to the folder or function on the Quick Access bar (located on the right of your screen). To drag a group of references, select the references to move using the Selected, Page or All in List radio buttons and then drag that grey section to the Quick Access bar folder or function.
  • Or: mark the reference(s) by marking the square before the title. Scroll over the icon under the tab Folders (the yellow map with the plus-sign): the list of available folders appears. Click the name of the folder you want to put the reference(s) in.

Add to folder option

A temporary folder: My list

In 'My list' you can make a temporary selection of references. This list disappears when you log out of RefWorks. You can use 'My list' when combining titles from several folders or titles from different pages in the same folder. By temporarily saving the references in 'My list', you can export them together or combine them in a bibliography.

You add references to 'My list' by clicking the yellow star icon next to each title you want to add My List icon. You can also mark several titles, and scroll over the yellow map with the plus-sign under Folders; the first folder you can choose there is My List.

You can view 'My List' by clicking My List under Folders in the bar on the right side of the screen. To create a bibliography based on the references in My List, you first have to open 'My List' and then click the button Create Bibliography.

Searching in RefWorks

To search your RefWorks database, click the Search button in the bar on top of your references. You can enter for example words from the title, the name of an author, tags, etc. 

After clicking the Search button, you can open the Advanced search. This option allows you to search more specific: you can specify the folders and/or field(s) you want to search. 

Advanced Search New RefWorks

There are three ways to search references in RefWorks.


In the search bar in the top right of the screen (Search Your Database) you can type your search terms directly and search for an author, words in the title etc. The search starts when you click the button Search. You can also search in the attachments: enter your search term and click the paperclip-icon with the minus-sign. The minus-sign will disappear and the content of pdf- and text-attachments and the names of the attachments are searched as well.

Searching in RefWorks


Click on the tab Search in the bar on top of the page and select Advanced. In this search screen, you can search in specific fields (these can be selected in the dropdown menu behind Search Field). You can also combine several search options: click the green plus-sign to add search bars. You can also limit your search to specific folders. Mark From Selected Folders, the list of folders will appear. Click Search. RefWorks will ask you if you want to save the search. If you want to, click Save Search and give the search a name. If you don't want to, click No Thanks.


Under the tab Search you'll find three other search options: By Author, By Descriptor and By Periodical. You can use these Lookup-functions to, for example, find errors in the names of authors. With this option you can adjust the spelling or the used descriptors easily: behind each name, descriptor or title you find the option Edit.

Editing references

The ‘metadata’ RefWorks receives from the databases like Scopus and Google Scholar, can be incorrect and/or incomplete. You always have to check the information yourself and, when needed, edit and complete the information.

What do you have to check?

  • Is the reference type correct? Is the journal article indeed a journal article?
  • Is the data complete? Check especially the page numbers and the DOI.

Do you see errors? You can correct them by clicking the title, which opens a side panel, and then clicking the pencil icon in the right upper corner. Not all fields are visible: click the button Add more fields... to add fields. When you have made all necessary corrections, click Save at the top of the side bar.

In the side bar you will see a lightning bolt icon behind the title and the DOI (when available) - when you click this icon, RefWorks will search Summon, a database from ProQuest, for additional information. At the bottom of the side bar Did you mean one of these? or DOI Lookup will open, with a number of options. When you select an option, the metadata is entered in the fields. When you agree, click Save at the top of the side bar to save the reference. 

Please note: due to the size of the box it can be hard to see the differences between the options presented by RefWorks. In that case, just try one - you can always use the Undo button at the top of the side bar. 

It's possible that the reference you've imported is not completely correct: the year is missing, or the title of the journal is abbreviated. Or maybe you want to add your own keywords to an already added title. Editing references and adding information is easy.

In the Standard View, Full View and in the view in a particular output style, you can click the icon Edit: a piece of paper with a pencil Edit button.You'll see all possible fields a reference in RefWorks can have. All already available information is visible. Behind View fields used by you can select an output style: the fields that are required within that output styele appear at the top; the other fields are visible under Additional Fields.

When you have changed the fields you wanted to change or add, click Save Reference at the right down corner of the screen. Your changes will be saved. Close the screen to go back to your references.

Editing multiple references at the same time with global edit

With 'Global edit', it is possible to change a number of references at once, for example add an extra descriptor to all the titles in a folder, move information from one field to another or delete fields from the references.

  1. Click the tab Organize & Share Folders.
  2. Click the name of the folder you wish to edit.
  3. Click the globe-icon under Folders.
    Global edit button
  4. Mark All in List.
  5. Select the correct tab at the top. You can choose Add, Move, Delete or Replace.

You can add information to your references like this:

  1. Select the tab Add.
  2. Select the specific field to edit from the menu Choose field ..., for example Notes.
  3. Type in the field the text you want to add.
  4. There are three options:
    - Append the information to existing data: you add the information to the already available information.
    - Overwrite existing data: already available information will be overwritten and will disappear.
    - Leave existing data alone: if the field contains data, the edit feature will skip over that particular reference.
    Mark the option you want to use.
  5. Click Add Data.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Close the screen.

Adding attachments to references

When a reference is already in your ProQuest RefWorks database, you can add files to the reference, for example the PDF-file with the full-text of the article. 

  1. Click the title – on the right side of the screen a side bar appears
  2. Click the pencil icon in the right upper corner
  3. Click the Add an attachment option and browse to the saved PDF-file
  4. Click Save

In the Normal View and in the Full View you can see that an attachment is added to the reference; in a Citation View or the Table View this is not immediately visible. 

In ProQuest RefWorks you can read and annotate the PDF within RefWorks: click the title of the reference and click Read. The PDF is opened in the same screen, with options to highlight text, to add a comment in the text or to add document notes.

It's possible to add files to your references in RefWorks. This can be a PDF file of the article in the reference, but it can also be a Word document with your notes.

To attach a file to a reference:

  • Click on the Edit-icon. You may have to swith to the Standard View first (The Edit-icon is the piece of paper with the pencil, next to the star).
  • Scroll down to the end of the Edit Reference screen, you'll find Attachments almost at the bottom.
  • Click Browse next to the field 'Attachments' to search for the file you want to add.
  • Click Save Reference to save the changes in the reference.

In the Standard View a small paperclip appears at the left side of the star . When you scroll over the paperclip, you'll the attachments added to the reference and you can open the attachments directly.

You can also open or download the attachment by clicking View (the magnifier glass). You'll see the thumbnail of the document behind the header Attachments.

When you want to save the document to your own computer, click the thumbnail with your right mouse button. Select Save target as...and save the document.

Caution: The maximum size of any individual attachment is 20 MB. There is a limit of 100 MB per Legacy RefWorks account. You can request more disk space capacity.

Deleting and deduplicating references

Deleting references

To delete a reference from your ProQuest RefWorks database, you can mark the reference and click Delete in the bar on top of the screen. The reference is then moved to the trash, the Deleted folder on the left side of the screen. From there you can permanently delete the reference(s) from your database. 


When you import references from several databases, it's possible that some titles appear more than once in your RefWorks-account. This can cause problems when using Write-n-Cite, because the ID-numbers of these references are different. RefWorks sees and treats them as different titles.

You can locate duplicates by clicking Tools in the bar at the top of the screen and selecting Find duplicates. When you are in a particular folder, you can choose to search that folder for duplicates or all references in your RefWorks database. You also have to choose between an Exact Match or a Close Match. Click the button Find Duplicates to start the search. 

When duplicates are found, RefWorks will return a list of duplicate items. Some references are already marked, to be easily deleted - but check if that's the reference you want to delete! For example you might want to keep the reference with the article attached and delete the reference without attachment. Make sure the reference(s) you want to delete are marked and click Delete.

Deleting references

You can delete references from your RefWorks-database by marking the reference and clicking the red cross under Organize & Share Folders.

Delete references

The deleted references are kept for 30 days in the folder Deleted References. From that folder you can move them back to your RefWorks-account: click View at the top of the page, choose Deleted References (the last option). Mark the titles and click Remove from (the two green arrows).

Restore deleted references

After 30 days the deleted reference is really gone. The ID-number of the reference will not be used again.


When you import references from several databases, it's possible that some titles appear more than once in your RefWorks-account. This can cause problems when using Write-n-Cite, because the ID-numbers of these references are different. RefWorks sees and treats them as different titles.

It's possible to search for duplicates in your RefWorks-account:

  1. Click on View at the top of the page.
  2. Select Duplicates.

You can also limit the search for duplicates to a certain folder:

  1. Click Organize & Share Folders.
  2. Click the folder icon (the yellow map) behind the name of the folder or subfolder you want to deduplicate.
  3. Choose Duplicates.

In both cases you have to choose between Exact Duplicates and Close Duplicates. When you select Exact duplicates, RefWorks will search for references that are exactly the same, for the fields authors, title and year of publication. With Closed match RefWorks also checks these fields, but the fields don't have to be exactly the same.

You can delete the duplicates by marking the square before the title. Then click Delete (the red cross). By default RefWorks marks one duplicate, the reference with the hightest RefID. If you want to make your own choices, you can change this setting: open Customize at the top of the screen, and mark No behind Automatically Mark Duplicates.

Caution: In the list of duplicates all references are shown. Make sure that one reference isn't deleted! 

Extra display options

In Legacy RefWorks  there are some extra functions available:

  • The link resolver of the University Library (UL) - the signature of Erasmus
  • Links to PubMed, the literature database of the National Library of Medicine.
  • Links to Scopus, a multidisciplinary database with abstracts of scientific literature.

You can choose whether you want to see the links to PubMed and/or Scopus: Click the link Customize at the top of the screen. There you can switch these options on or off. The link resolver is always visible.

Link resolver

In the 'Full View', 'Standard View' and the view in a particular style, you see the signature of Erasmus near the reference. In the 'One line/cite view' you see in the grey bar on top of the reference among others a white sheet with a lock. When you scroll over that icon, you also see the text 'Search the full-text'. This is a link to the linkresolver of the UL. When you click on this button you will be sent to the full text of the article in the reference if the UL has a subscription to the online version of the journal.

Linkresolver in one line/cite view


Any record(s) imported from PubMed, a database for the medical sciences, can be displayed in RefWorks with a PubMed Links icon and several linking options:

  • View in PubMed: links you to the reference in PubMed
  • Related References: links you to related articles in PubMed
  • More by Author: allows you to select an author’s name and links you to other articles by that author in PubMed

PubMed icon in RefWorks


References added to RefWorks from the Scopus database will have an extra icon with liks to Scopus.

  • View in Scopus: this is a link to the title in Scopus.
  • Related References: this link brings you to a list of documents in Scopus that have one or more cited references in common with the reference you're viewing in RefWorks.
  • More by Author: with this link you can search within Scopus to other articles of one of the authors of the article

Scopus in RefWorks