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Syracuse University Libraries

RefWorks Transition: Home


We thank the librarians at the University of Massachusetts Boston Healy Library for letting us re-use content from their FAQ and Which Tool to Choose boxes.

How to Migrate to Mendeley

When you first create a Mendeley account you will be given the option of importing references from another citation management tool with guided instructions.  Otherwise, please see instructions below.

Contact a Librarian

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Giovanna Colosi
The best and quickest way to reach me is 8:30 AM-5PM EST Mon-Fri via email. I am available also for video or phone consultations.

RefWorks Transition

Effective February 2021 the University Libraries is discontinuing RefWorks and there will be no access to RefWorks after that date.

This guide will help you prepare and plan for this transition. If you have any questions that are not addressed here, please feel free to email for clarifiaction. 

We will continue to provide access and learning support to Mendeley and Zotero as robust alternatives to RefWorks.

Get an account to Mendeley or Zotero.

Which Tool to Choose?

Mendeley and Zotero have many similar features. However, it is a personal preference which citation tool fits your research needs best. Both citation tools can be used among multiple computers. Mendeley is not an open source. Zotero is a free and open source which has proven useful for personal image management, and library organizations. Mendeley promotes collaborative work and does not only organize your research. Both Zotero and Mendeley have helpful video tutorials.

Reasons to choose Mendeley:

Your research content is primarily PDF files.  Mendeley can create citation records from an imported a PDF file and it has a PDF reader allowing annotations. Mendeley is also an academic network, linking you to papers and people working in your field.  Extensive training documentation and video tutorials are available.  Ample file storage is provided.  It allows uses to create Groups to share libraries for collaborative projects (group size limit is generally 25 people for those using freely available access to Mendeley online;  The limit is 50 people if one has paid for extra file storage).

Reasons to choose Zotero:

Your research comes from diverse sources: databases, web pages, and library catalogs. Zotero can gather citation records for non-PDF content easily with its web connectors.  Zotero has Connectors for Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, and it works with more databases, catalogs, and websites than Mendeley's Web Importer.  Zotero is easy to learn, though there are fewer learning tools for Zotero than for Mendeley.  Please note that Zotero has 300 MB cloud storage, but additional file storage may be purchased for a small fee.  It also allows users to create Groups to share libraries for collaborative projects (number of members allowed in a group is unlimited).

Please view the Comparison Chart at UW Madison for clarification of the different features of various citation management tools.

RefWorks Transition FAQ

RefWorks Transition FAQ

The following questions and answers are designed to help you plan for transitioning from RefWorks to a new citation manager. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have that are not answered here.

How do I know who will be affected and how they will be contacted?

The University Libraries sent an email message to Syracuse University RefWorks users notifying them of this upcoming transition, with instructions to consult this guide and to contact us with any questions that are not addressed in this FAQ. This email was sent on September 1st. Emails were also sent out to individual communication directors at each school and college. In addition, announcements will be posted in Research Guides, Library News, and Libraries’ Citing Sources page. 

What if I am currently writing a paper in RefWorks?

If you currently use the Write-N-Cite plug-in for Word and you are in the middle of a writing project, you should try and finish before we end our access to RefWorks in February 2021. Otherwise, if you move to a new citation management system you will have to replace the RefWorks citations in your word document with citations from the new citation management tool and this will have to be done manually.  If you have just begun writing and formatting a paper, you might consider moving to another citation management tool at this time.

I use RefWorks. What should I use instead?

The University Libraries recommends and provides support for these citation management systems: Mendeley and Zotero and Endnote. These options provide the same basic set of functions as RefWorks, but each has its own strengths, which may guide you toward choosing one or the other of them.

Please view the Comparison Chart at UW Madison for clarification of the different features of various citation management tools.

I am an alum. Will I also lose access to my RefWorks account?

Yes. When we end our institutional subscription to RefWorks, you will lose access to your account and your citations. Prior to February 2021, you will have to migrate your RefWorks contents to a different citation management tool.  Information on migrating your references are on this Transition Guide.

What if I just want to continue using RefWorks? Is that possible?

Not to our knowledge. Unless you are using a RefWorks account at another academic insitution with whom you have a direct affiliation.  Refworks does not offer accounts to individuals.  You may contact RefWorks to inquire about related account access questions.

Where can I learn more about citation managers I can use instead of RefWorks?

If you would like help selecting a new citation manager, migrating your citations and PDFs from RefWorks to a new citation manager, and learning how your new citation manager works, you can ask for help from a librarian.

Each recommended citation manager also has a robust set of online tutorials, documentation, and help guides:

Please view the Comparison Chart at UW Madison for clarification of the different features of various citation management tools.

How do I get my references from RefWorks into my new citation manager?

We have downloadable handouts in the left column of this RefWorks Transition Guide with instructions for migrating your references and files from RefWorks to Mendeley or Zotero. Or visit the current RefWorks User Guide and the section of that guide entitled, exporting references to a file.

Can I transfer PDFs to my new citation manager?

RefWorks has an automatic bulk PDF export option, using Dropbox. You will sync your RefWorks account with Dropbox. For detailed instructions, see How to Save PDFs from RefWorks using Dropbox on this Transition Guide.

Mendeley:You can upload a folder of PDFs;and Mendeley will read the citation information for each readable PDF.

Zotero: PDFs must be uploaded one at a time.

Can I transfer my folders and organization from RefWorks to my new citation manager?

Yes. You will export each RefWorks folder separately, creating your folder structure in your new citation manager as you go. In Zotero folders are called Collections. We have downloadable handouts on this guide with instructions for migrating your references, while retaining their current folder structure from RefWorks to Mendeley or Zotero

If I have added notes and used custom fields in RefWorks, will these transfer to my new citation manager?

The Notes field in RefWorks will transfer to Mendeley as notes. User fields or personal notes will not be moved. Custom fields will not import into Mendeley. Placing this content into the Notes field will allow this information to be transferred to the Mendeley Notes field. Notes and other custom fields will become child records in Zotero, appended with the main record. You might prefer manually copying content out of either PERSONAL NOTES or USER FIELDS and inserting it into equivalent fields in Mendeley or Zotero.

How do the other citation managers handle different character sets? Do they import as accurately as they do into RefWorks?

Zotero is Unicode-compliant and will import and format Unicode-based data

Will my new citation manager link back to an items full text, like it does in RefWorks?

Zotero supports a link back to an items full text PDF by adding the proper Proxy information for Syracuse University. Mendeley Web handles this more indirectly and inconsistently.

How do I export items from the Library's databases to my new citation manager?

Both Mendeley and Zotero can read BibTex and RIS files These file types are available from many of the library databases including: 

Also see 7 ways to add documents to Mendeley and Adding Items to your Zotero Library

Can I export items from the Library Catalog or Summon to my new citation manager?

Zotero has a browser plug-in which allows you to easily extract citation information from a list of records in the Library Classic Catalog.  You can install the Zotero Connector in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

Mendeley will not reliably receive exported records from the Library Classic Catalog.  Neither Zotero or Mendeley do a reliable job with Summon.

The Classic Catalog allows you to export to EndNote Citations.

Can I export items from to my new citation manager?

​Yes, you can export items from through the Mendeley and Zotero browser plug-ins. In Mendeley you can install the Web Importer in Chrome, Firefox, IE, and Safari. Use the Zotero Connector in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

Will I be able to access my references from any computer, like I can with RefWorks?

Yes. You can access your references in either Mendeley or in Zotero from any computer:

How do I collaborate with others in my new citation manager?

Other citation managers allow for collaborative work. You can accomplish this through "Groups" in Mendeley or Zotero or Endnote.   If shared group access to one account in a citation manager is a priority for you, this may influence your choice of preferred tool.  For instance, Zotero supports shared access for an unlimited number of persons, while grouped collaborative account access has fixed limits in both Mendeley (maximum of 25 people for most free access, and 50 people if one has paid for extra file storage) and Endnote (maximum of 100 people).

Can I transfer my Syracuse University RefWorks account to another university?

Yes. If you have access to RefWorks through another university, you can transfer your account.

First, log into your Syracuse University RefWorks account and create a back-up of your RefWorks library. Then, create a new RefWorks account from your new institution. Use this new account to restore from the back-up you created of your Syracuse University account. For complete instructions, see the document Move RefWorks account to new institution.