RefWorks Transition Guide

Learn about alternate citation management tools like Zotero, Mendley, and EndNote. Then follow step-by-step directions to migrate your citations out of RefWorks to your new citation manager.

Library Research Guide

Transition from RefWorks 3

To get started, you’ll need to export your references out of RefWorks. Once that process is completed, you can import them into your new citation manager.

Step 1: Install the RefWorks 3 Export Bookmarklet

Installing RefWorks 3 Export BookmarkletWe’ve created the RefWorks 3 Export Bookmarklet to export all of your references (with tags, notes, and PDFs) from RefWorks 3 with one click.

A bookmarklet is simply a browser bookmark that includes computer code. We recommend using this bookmarklet with Google Chrome. It will not work with Safari, Internet Explorer, or Microsoft Edge.

To use a bookmarklet, make sure your browser is configured to:

  • allow pop-up windows
  • accept third-party cookies
  • enable JavaScript

Also make sure your bookmarks or favorites bar is visible:

  • Chrome (recommended): Ctrl + Shift + B will show or hide the bookmarks bar
  • Firefox: Alt will display the menu bar. Select View > Toolbars > Bookmarks Toolbar

Click and drag the bookmarklet below up to your browser's favorites or bookmarks (see image):

RefWorks 3 Export Bookmarklet


To manually create this bookmark, select and copy the text below, then right click the bookmark toolbar to create a new bookmark (Add Page in Chrome), and paste the copied text in the url field:

javascript:function initiateIt(){var script = document.createElement('script');script.src ="";document.head.appendChild(script);}initiateIt();


Step 2: Export using the RefWorks 3 Export Bookmarklet

  1. Login to your RefWorks account.
  2. Click the RefWorks 3 Export Bookmarklet. If you have many files this may take time. If you click it more than once you may need to log out of your RefWorks account, clear your browser's cache (Ctrl + Shift + Delete in Chrome), and log in again.
  3. Remember the location of your saved files.

Importing citations (Step 2): Select your new citation manager (Zotero, Mendeley, or EndNote) and follow the directions below to import these files to your new citation manager.

Importing PDFs (Step 3): Follow the directions in Step 3 to add PDFs to your imported citations.

Step 3: Import citations to your new citation manager

  1. Create an account, download Zotero 5.0, and open it.

Ctrl+Shift+I to import

  1. In the Zotero installed on your computer, select File from the top bar, then Import. When the Where do you want to import from? box appears, select a file type (BibTeX, RIS, Zotero RDF, etc.).
  2. Select the file that you exported from RefWorks and select Open. All done!


Note: When using Zotero Desktop on a public computer be sure to sign in and out of your account in Edit > Preferences > Sync.

  1. Create a Mendeley account then download and open Mendeley Desktop
  1. Select File, then Import, then the RIS - Research Information Systems (*.ris) option.

Importing by selecting File, Import, and RIS

  1. Find the RIS (*.ris) file that RefWorks exported, then select Open. All done!


  1. Create a paid EndNote Desktop account (student and upgrade discounts for EndNote x9 available here) and log in.
  2. Select File, then Import, then File:
    Selecting File then Import then File in Endnote to import citations from RefWorks
  3. Select Choose to browse for the file you exported from RefWorks, select the Import Option for your exported fileand then select Import. All done!
    Selecting Reference Manager (RIS) import option in Endnote to import your references from RefWorksIf you are a Mac user, you may be unable to import RefWorks citations directly into EndNote Desktop. You can import citations to EndNote Online (see the tab above) and then sync your accounts so that the citations also appear in EndNote Desktop. 
  1. Create a free EndNote Online account (select EndNote from the tools menu) and log in.


  2. Select Collect and then Import References.Selecting Collect and Import References
  3. Choose File to browse for the file you exported from RefWorks, select RefMan RIS as Import Option, select New group from To, and click on Import. All done!

    Importing references

Step 4: Import PDFs to your new citation manager

The RefWorks 3 Export Bookmarklet saves your files in a compressed or zipped folder. To extract these files right click on the zipped folder and select "extract all" or select "extract all" from the Compressed Folder Tools menu.

  1. Open the "archive" folder containing the downloads created by the RefWorks 3 Export Bookmarklet and the your new citation manager side by side.
  2. Click and drag each PDF from the folder on your computer to the record in your new citation manager.

Zotero and Dropbox windows side-by-side