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RefWorks Transition Guide

RefWorks Transition

Effective May 26, 2017 the University Library is cancelling 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 contact us at

If you do not wish to preserve the references saved in your current RefWorks account, no further action is needed.

Choose a New Citation Manager

Mendeley LogoZotero Logo




These tools allow you to organize a personal database of resources that you can use to create citations and bibliographies.

Reasons to choose Mendeley:

Your research content is primarily contained in PDF files: Mendeley has an integrated PDF viewer and can create citation records just from importing a PDF file. Mendeley has the strongest website and community platform.

Reasons to choose Zotero:

Your research content is diverse. Zotero can gather citation records for non-PDF content easily. Zotero's single-click capture works with more databases, catalogs, and websites than Mendeley's Web Importer. One drawback is that the web add-on decreases visibility within the browser.

       Mendeley   Zotero
  Cost   Free up to 2GB   Free up to 300MB
  Access   Web & desktop   Web & desktop
  Organize PDFs and other documents   Yes   Yes
  Annotate / highlight PDFs   Yes   No
  Store PDFs   Yes   Yes
  Extract data from PDFs   Yes   Yes
  Creates formatted bibliographies, in-text citations, and footnotes     Yes   Yes
  Share resources with others   Yes   Yes
  Direct export from databases   Yes   Yes
  Citation styles   16 styles installed
  6,000+ can be added
  Social network   Yes   Yes
  Mobile app   Yes: iOS and Android     Yes: iOS and Android  

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 Library will send a series of email messages to UMass Boston 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. The first all-user email will be sent in November 2016.

I use RefWorks. What should I use instead?

The University Library provides support for and recommends two free citation management systems: Mendeley and Zotero. Both of 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.

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 May 26, 2017, you will have to migrate your RefWorks contents to a different citation manager.

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

You may subscribe to RefWorks as an individual. Start by setting up a Free Trial for 30 days. You will need to move your references from your UMass Boston account to your individual subscription. Follow the instructions for Moving a RefWorks account to a new location.

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 schedule a consultation with a reference librarian.

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

And, as always, you are also welcome to Ask a Librarian for assistance.

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

We have downloadable handouts with instructions for migrating your citations and files from RefWorks to Mendeley or Zotero.

Can I transfer PDFs to my new citation manager?

Legacy RefWorks does not have an automatic bulk PDF export option, each PDF needs to be downloaded individually. To transfer your PDFs from RefWorks to your new citation manager, display the citation record and click on the paperclip icon to download the PDF. You will need to upload the PDFs to your new citation manager and attach them to the new records.

ProQuest RefWorks does have an automatic bulk PDF export option. If you are using Legacy RefWorks, you need to migrate to a ProQuest RefWorks account. Then, you can sync your account with DropBox. Once your PDFs are in DropBox, you can download them to a zip folder.

For detailed instructions, see Save and Migrate pdfs from RefWorks.

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?

If you want to transfer your folders from RefWorks into your new citation manager, you will have to recreate your folders and organizational structure in your new citation manager and export each RefWorks folder separately. In Zotero, folders are called Collections.

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. Notes and other custom fields will become Extras in Zotero.

Personal Notes will not transfer directly from Legacy RefWorks, but they will from ProQuest RefWorks. If you want to save your Personal Notes, migrate your Legacy RefWorks account to a ProQuest RefWorks account. Personal Notes will merge with the Notes fields, which can be transferred into Mendeley or Zotero.

Custom fields will not import into Mendeley.

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

While this was once a problem, Mendeley and Zotero are now Unicode-compliant and both do a very smooth job of downloading and handling any Unicode-based data.

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

Yes, both Mendeley and Zotero link back to an item's full text:

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. 

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

Can I export items from the UMBrella to my new citation manager?

Yes, both Mendeley and Zotero have browser plug-ins which allow you to easily extract citation information from the UMBrella. In Mendeley you can install the Web Importer in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. Use Zotero for Firefox or the Zotero Bookmarklet in any browser. 

Can I export items from WorldCat to my new citation manager?

​Yes, you can export items from WorldCat through the Mendeley and Zotero browser plug-ins. In Mendeley you can install the Web Importer in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. Use Zotero for Firefox or the Zotero Bookmarklet in any browser. 

To download citation information as a RIS file, click Cite/Export, then click Export to EndNote / Reference Manager. Save the file you wish to import into either Mendeley or Zotero, and follow the instructions from the migration guides for importing files.

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 and in Zotero.

Can I transfer my UMass Boston RefWorks account to another university? 

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

First, log into your UMass Boston 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 back-up you created of your UMass Boston account. For complete instructions, see the document Move RefWorks account to new institution

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