Collecting references

There are several ways of collecting references:

Using direct export

Many databases support the direct export of references to RefWorks. Typically, you mark the references you wish to export and then look around for an Export, "Export to RefWorks" or similar option. Sometimes it's necessary to mark the references and display the marked set, in order to see the Export option.

All the following databases support direct export:

  • Academic Search Complete
  • AMED (*)
  • Australian Education Index
  • British Education Index
  • Business Source Premier
  • CINAHL Plus
  • DAAI
  • Emerald
  • ERIC
  • GreenFile
  • Historical Abstracts
  • House of Commons Parliamentary Papers
  • IBSS
  • IEEE/IET Electronic Library
  • International Index to Music Periodicals
  • International Index to Performing Arts
  • Lexis Library
  • Literature Online
  • Medline (*)
  • MLA International Bibliography
  • Music and Performing Arts Online
  • PsycInfo
  • Scopus
  • SportDiscus
  • Library Search
  • Web of Science

(*) With most databases, it's recommended that you start with RefWorks closed. However, with the two OvidSP databases (AMED and Medline), you need to start with RefWorks already open.

In addition to ScienceDirect, you can use direct export with several other full text collections, e.g. Oxford Journals, Project Muse and PsycArticles. However, it's usually better to collect references from abstracting databases. For example, try using Scopus rather than ScienceDirect and Oxford Journals; and use MLA rather than Project Muse.

Importing or copying from a text file

Importing or copying from a text file works for those databases which do not support direct exporting. Databases where this is relevant are:

  • ACM Digital Library
  • Cochrane (*)
  • Lecture Notes in Computer Science
  • Lecture Notes in Mathematics
  • SAE Technical Papers (*)
  • Social Care Online (*)
  • Springer Protocols
  • Zetoc (*)

(*) With Cochrane, SAE Technical Papers, Social Care Online and Zetoc, multiple references can be imported at the same time. With the other databases, you can only import one reference at a time.

Importing or copying from a text file starts out just like direct exporting - you mark the references you wish to import then click on 'Download', or 'Export', or a similar option. But then there are additional steps which will involve using the import filter within RefWorks. For step by step procedures for each of these databases, please see RefWorks by database.

Importing from catalogues

To collect book references, you need to use catalogues. RefWorks enables easy importing of references from the Brunel Library catalogue, the British Library and hundreds of other catalogues.

  1. Start with RefWorks already open 
  2. Link to <Search/ "Online Catalog or Database"> from the menu bar
  3. Use the drop-down menu to select a catalogue, e.g. Brunel University or British Library (which are both near the top of the list)
  4. Perform a search
  5. Mark the references you wish to import into RefWorks
  6. Use the "Import to Folder" drop-down menu to put the selected references into which ever folder you want
  7. Link to the <OK> button
  8. Link to <View Last Imported Folder>

The same approach will also work for the PubMed database, which is listed at the top, above the catalogues.

RSS feeds

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS feeds enable you to collect new references whenever a database is updated. Not all databases support RSS feeds, which are compatible with RefWorks, but there are some significant databases which do: 

  • Ebscohost databases (registration required): Academic Search Complete, Business Source Premier, CINAHL, GreenFile, Historical Abs, LISTA, MLA, PsycInfo and SportDiscus
  • Institute of Physics (e-journals collection)
  • Scopus

Typically, to create an RSS feed, you login to the database (registering first if required), perform a search, link to the RSS feed icon, and then copy the URL which appears into RefWorks. The procedure for creating an RSS feed with Scopus is as follows.

  1. Start with RefWorks already open
  2. Open Scopus
  3. Perform a search
  4. Link to the orange <Set feed> icon (in the centre of the screen, near the top)
  5. Link to the <Continue> button
  6. Copy the URL which appears. Right mouse click on the URL, and link to <Copy Shortcut>
  7. Open the RefWorks window
  8. Link to <Search/ RSS Feed>
  9. Paste the URL into the “RSS Feed URL” box
  10. Link to <Add RSS Feed>
  11. Link to the <OK> button to retrieve the RSS feed

The procedure for Ebscohost databases is similar, but you need to login to Ebscohost.


You can use RefGrab-It to collect references for individual web pages. RefGrab-It is compatible with the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers. First you need to add RefGrab-It to your browser's favourites:

  1. Start with RefWorks already open
  2. Link to <Tools/ RefGrab-It> from the menu bar
  3. See the "RefGrab-It bookmarklet" box on the right-hand side of the pop-up window - it's the third box down
  4. Right-click on <RefGrab-It>
  5. Link to <Add to Favourites>
  6. Link to the <Yes> button, when advised that the favourite may not be safe
  7. Link to the <Add> button to "Add a Favorite"
  8. Check that RefGrab-It appears amongst your browser's favourites

Now you can collect web page references using RefGrab-It.

  1. Open a web page, which you want to reference
  2. Link to <RefGrab-It> within your browser's favourites
  3. A new window should open
  4. Mark the record by checking the box
  5. Link to the <Import to RefWorks> button
  6. Link to the RefWorks window
  7. Link to <View Last Imported Folder>

After collecting a web page reference using RefGrab-It, you will probably want to edit it. You can do this within RefWorks, by linking to the pencil icon associated with the record (at the right-hand end of the bar). For example, you might want to add an author to the record.

Adding references manually

A few databases are unfortunately incompatible with RefWorks, e.g. British Standards Online, Index to Theses and Westlaw.

If you are unable to find a journal article in one of the Library's databases, you can use Google Scholar to import the reference into RefWorks. For a step by step procedure of importing via Google Scholar, please see RefWorks by database.

It's recommended that you manually add references for other types of documents, e.g. theses, standards and patents. To do this:

  1. Start with RefWorks already open
  2. Link to the <New Reference> button in the centre near the top of the screen
  3. Select reference style, folder and type of document from the drop-down menus
  4. Enter data for appropriate fields into the boxes provided
  5. Link to the <Save Reference> button

For standards, you should select Report as the type of document, and enter the BS number in the title field (in front of the title itself).

If you don't specify the folder, a reference created in this way will be transferred into a folder called "Not in a Folder".

Page last updated: Thursday 16 February 2017