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Create Bibliographies

How to use citation managers to collect, organize, cite, and share your references

What Is RefWorks?

RefWorks is a web-based bibliographic manager that includes a word processing plug-in for Microsoft Word and Google Docs.  RefWorks is popular with researchers that use academic databases to find information and want a bibliographic manager that they can access from any computer.

Notable features of RefWorks include:

  • Saving large numbers of references from multiple databases
  • Extensive organizational capabilities, including tagging and sub-folders
  • Creating bibliographies in hundreds of citation styles
  • Inserting in-text citations and bibliographies into documents
  • Sharing your references by creating stable URLs for your entire RefWorks database or for specific folders
  • Attaching files from your hard drive to references in your database--these can be shared with others

The information provided below is useful for researchers who want to become familiar with RefWorks' basic functions.  For a more complete guide to RefWorks features, I recommend ProQuest's RefWorks guide.

Getting Started with RefWorks

Create Your Account

You will be asked for an institutional email.  To use RefWorks, you must create an account using your BU email address and a unique password (different from your Kerberos password).  Create your account here:

For Users of Legacy RefWorks

If you've been using the previous version of RefWorks, you can continue to use it.

If you'd like to migrate your RefWorks database to the newest version of RefWorks, you can do that, too.

Adding References to Your Database

Once your account is created, you can start sending references to your RefWorks database.  There are several ways to do this:

  • Use the "Export to RefWorks" or "Send" functions in a variety of database platforms like EBSCOhost, and Google Scholar.  Look for words like Export, Send, or Save in a database's interface; RefWorks export options are usually located there.  If you need help finding it, contact a librarian for assistance.
  • Some databases like PubMed and Web of Science can export references in a .txt or .ris file.  You can save that file on your hard drive, then import using the "+" button on your RefWorks toolbar.
  • Use the "Save to RefWorks" bookmarklet.  You can capture bibliographic information from an article on your screen, a video, or even a list of search results. Users report varied success with this feature.
  • Add references to your database manually.  Choose this option if you're working with an information source that you found offline (e.g. a print book, a film, a speech, etc.).  This option is found under the "+" button.
  • If you have been using another bibliographic manager or the "Legacy" version of RefWorks, you can transfer your preexisting references into your new RefWorks database.

Citing with RefWorks

To create bibliographies with RefWorks, open the folder with the citations you want to use, then click the " button in your RefWorks toolbar.

RefWorks will create a bibliography in your chosen citation style that you can copy and paste into a document.

Note: Look over your bibliography before submitting it to an instructor or publisher.  If you imported references that were poorly indexed--and this can happen even with references from well-respected academic databases--there is a chance that you will have incorrect formatting on some of your bibliography items.


If you want to cite sources within the text of your document, you can do it in one of two ways:

  • Use RefWorks' plug-in for Microsoft Word or Google Docs (RECOMMENDED).  This plug-in will allow you to sync your RefWorks database with your document, add in-text citations, and automatically generate a bibliography of the sources you've cited in the text of your document.  If you are using a BU-issued version of Microsoft Word, you will find the Add-In here: Insert > Get Add-ins > Admin Managed.-
  • Use the Quick Cite option under the " button in your toolbar.  This will allow you to create in-text citations from any of the references in the folder you're viewing.  These can then be copied and pasted to your document.


Citing in Footnotes

When using RefWorks' citation tool while citing in Chicago Style (Notes & Bibliography) or another style that requires footnote citations, it's necessary to insert a footnote, then insert your citation in the footnote rather than the text of the document. See the examples below to find out how the citation differs depending on its location.

Fig. 1 (below): Chicago style citation inserted at the end of a sentence.

Fig. 2 (below): Chicago style citation inserted in a footnote.

Sharing References with Others

You can share your RefWorks folders with other RefWorks users, allowing them to see the references and if you choose, annotate and/or edit those references.  You can create a public URL for your folder, allowing non-RefWorks users to see the contents.

To do this, click the small box next to the name of the folder you want to share (see image below), and choose the Share Folder option.  You will then be able to choose to create a public URL for the folder or to invite specific people with varying degrees of access (read-only, read and annotate, or read/annotate/edit).  Please note that if you invite others, they will need to create RefWorks accounts if they are not current RefWorks users.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. I've tried installing the Write-n-Cite/RefWorks Citation Manager plug-in and it won't work. What do I do?

A. You may be trying to install the wrong tool.  If you are using Microsoft Word 2016 or a more current version of Word, you will need to install RefWorks Citation Manager, not Write-n-Cite.  Make sure that all instances of Microsoft Word are closed.  On a Mac, this means force-quitting the Word app (right-click on the Word icon, then choose Quit).  Try the installation again.  If it does not work, please contact Boston University's Information Services & Technology Department for technical assistance.  They can be reached at or at 617-353-4357.  You can also visit them in person on the first floor of Mugar Memorial LIbrary.

Q. What's the difference between Legacy RefWorks and the new RefWorks?

A. Mainly, the difference exists in the interface.  The new RefWorks is more intuitive, and the buttons on the interface are easier to see.  If you are just starting with RefWorks, choose the new version.  Legacy RefWorks is only available to accommodate long-time users that did not want to deal with exporting all their citations into the new RefWorks.  The only benefit to using Legacy RefWorks over the new version is that it allows import of citations from .txt files in a tagged format.

Q. I'm trying to import a citation of a speech (or some other reference type that RefWorks doesn't recognize).  How do I do this?

A. If the source exists in a different format (e.g. a transcript of a speech), you can choose that reference type instead.  You can also choose the Generic reference type and add as much bibliographic information as you can for that reference; you may need to edit the reference after citing it in your document with the RefWorks plug-in.  Please contact a librarian if you need help doing this.


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JD Kotula
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