Reference Management Software

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RefWorks Help

Our RefWorks subscription ended on October 1, 2021. If you still need to back up your account data or transition to other reference management software, the vendor is granting access until the end of December 2021.  
* Current account holders only. New user accounts are no longer available due to discontinuation of service.


Login to Legacy RefWorks


Login to Proquest RefWorks (Newest Version)

Frequently Asked Questions

We have carefully reviewed the pros and cons of our site license, including a review of usage data, a survey of U of A users, a functionality review, a review of subscription cost increases, and an environmental scan of U15+ Universities. We have concluded that the high cost of the annual subscription can no longer be justified when there are other comparable citation management programs available that are as good as or better than RefWorks without the high subscription cost. Most other Canadian U15 institutions no longer use RefWorks.

Our subscription expires on October 1, 2021 (for both the Legacy and new platform). You will have until October 1 to access your account and export your citations.

There are a variety of free and paid software options, including Zotero, Mendeley, and EndNote. See the comparison table to help you decide which one to use.

Reference management software is not discipline-specific. However, there are trends in some disciplines towards certain software. Subject librarians in science and health sciences report higher use of EndNote and Mendeley amongst their users; in the humanities, Zotero seems to be more popular. If you are unsure which one to choose, ask people in your department what software they like to use or would recommend.

This guide includes instructions for exporting references from RefWorks to another citation manager, and we will work with you one-on-one to answer your questions as needed. You can chat with us, or you can email to set up an appointment.

No, you can export many references at once using the instructions on the Export from RefWorks page. Make sure to export one folder at a time if you want to keep your folder structure.

If you are using an adblocker, you might need to allow popups in order for the file to download.

Many databases allow you to download an RIS file, which you can then import to your new RMS. Alternatively, EndNote, Mendeley, and Zotero all have browser extensions (bookmarklets) that allow you to export data from your browser. For detailed instructions, see the support documents for the RMS that you're using.

If you are currently using RefWorks Write-N-Cite in Word for your paper or manuscript and wish to switch to a new reference manager citation plug-in, you will first need to remove the citation formatting code created by RefWorks. Removing this formatting code will allow you to add and edit citations using your new reference manager. Detailed instructions are here

Exporting from Proquest (new) RefWorks

Options: choose your situation

A. You need to continue using reference management software (RMS).

  • Step 1: Export your references from RefWorks in RIS format using the instructions at the bottom of this page.
  • Step 2: Choose another software (e.g., EndNote, Zotero, Mendeley, other).
  • Step 3: Import RIS file(s) and attachments to new software.

B. You aren't sure but you want to keep your references and your options open.

  1. Export your references from RefWorks in RIS format and save the file until you decide.
    • PRO: easy to import into any RMS in future.
    • CON: not human readable, cannot copy & paste citations.
  2. Create a bibliography in Refworks of all your references and copy & paste to a document. 
    • PRO: human readable, can copy & paste citations.
    • CON: cannot import this file into an RMS.

C. You know you won't need your reference collection in the future.

  • Do nothing (you will lose all access!)


Prepare to export: warnings & tips

  • Warning: Exporting does NOT maintain your folder structure.
    • Export and import each folder separately if you need to keep your folder structure.
  • Warning: exporting does NOT include attachments (e.g. pdf, images), notes, or customized user fields
    • Download each attachment separately so you can access them and re-attach them later in different software.
      • Rename them so you can identify them (e.g., Author last name_year_brief title)
      • URL links to to library/database/web sites are saved, so you can get back to full-text if it still exists online.
  • Tip: Export fewer than 500 references at a time (split them into folders).
  • TIp: clean up your RefWorks account before exporting.
    • e.g. de-duplicate, delete unnecessary references and folders, consolidate folders.

Workflow suggestions for exporting attachments (pdf, jpg, xlsx) and custom user fields. 

To Export:

  1. Login to your RefWorks account. Note: If this login doesn't look familiar, you may be using Legacy RefWorks (see instructions).

  2. From the left navigation pane, click on My Folders and select a folder to export from the list, or you can select All References if you wish to export your entire account at once without retaining folders.

  3. Check the Select All box (just above your list of references) and click the Share icon.  Share menu to export references

  4. Choose Export References.

  5. Choose the following options:
    • From All references in [Folder Name]
    • Format RIS Format
    • Click Export
  6. Repeat these steps for each folder. You may wish to save each RIS file with the name of the folder you exported for easy identification later on. Make note of where you save the file(s) before moving on.

With your RIS files saved, you can keep them in a safe spot for retention or move them into new reference management software for easy access and editing.

Adapted from: Knowledge Resource Service. (2020, July 27). Exporting from RefWorks.

Exporting from Legacy RefWorks (older version)

If you want to maintain the same folder structure in your new reference manager, you should export your citations from RefWorks one folder at a time. We don't recommend that you export more than 500 references at a time from RefWorks. If your library is larger than 500 references, split them into folders and export them one at a time

To Export:

  1. Login to your legacy RefWorks account. Note: If this login doesn't look familiar, you may be using new RefWorks (see instructions).

  2. From the right navigation pane, view your Folders list and select a folder to export from the list.

  3. Go to the main menu References and click on Export.

  4. Choose the following options:
    • References to Include  All in List 
    • Select an Export Format  Bibliographic Software
    • Click Export References

  5. A text file will open in a new browser window/tab (make sure that pop-ups are enabled on your browser).

  6. Click on your browser's menu icon in the upper right to save the contents.

    • Internet Explorer: File Save As
    • Firefox: Save Page As
    • Chrome: More Tools Save Page As
    • Microsoft Edge/Safari browsers do NOT support saving web pages as text documents, so you will need to use a different browser.
  7. Give your file a name (we suggest naming it after the folder) and make note of your saved file location (e.g., downloads folder). 

    • File Name: [Enter Folder Name]. Make sure to add .ris to the end of the file name (e.g., testfile.ris) 
    • Save as Type: All files
  8. Check through your references to ensure no details have been lost during the export process.

  9. Repeat these steps for each folder, then follow the import instructions for your new reference management software.

Saving Attachments 

RefWorks cannot export attachments in bulk. You will need to open and save individual files from RefWorks and add them to the new record.


  • You may not need every attachment in your collection. Consider only downloading files for projects that you are actively working on.
  • URL links for full-text are saved when exporting records as above, so you will still have the ability to access the full-text when needed.
  • If saving attachments, remember to name these files so they can easily be identified and matched to the new record.

Adapted from: Knowledge Resource Service. (2020, July 27). Exporting from Legacy RefWorks.