Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

BIOS 251: Writing and Biological Sciences

Fall 2020

RefWorks Capabilities

This page is based on a class demo about the citation management software RefWorks (RW) and associated exercise. 

Before going further on this page, review the  diagram below. It displays key capabilities of RW, which lets you:

  • store citations, abstracts, notes, and other information in folders
  • create a folder structure for above plus project spaces
  • attach files to RW records, link out to the full text of articles, or link to to them
  • format papers in an appropriate style as well as create 

You can read it from left to right. On the left, you can see various ways to get citations, abstracts, and other information (including notes) into the RV folder. Once the data is available in a folder, you will see "Lehigh Links" that enable you to link out to the item, or order it via interlibrary loan ("ILLiad"). You can also manually attach a document to the RW  or drag and drop it into RW.

Finally, moving to the right on the diagram, you can use RW to format, in an appropriate style, a paper or create a standalone list of citations. The diagram below also serves as a basis for comparing the capabilities of other citation management softwares. (Lehigh supports RefWorks, but you may also want to try Zotero. Here is a brief tutorial (Idaho State Univ. Libraries, 12/13/2017).

For a refresher on RefWorks basics, or to search aspects of it that we may not have had to time to cover, please see the RefWorks tutorials available here. For written documentation, see RefWorks User Guide.

Contact the Science Librarian with any questions.

Setting up RefWorks

Setting up RefWorks (RW) 

  • Follow these instructions to set up a RW account if you have not already.
  • After you become an avid user of RW, it is also good that you read through the RefWorks User Guide plus watch the video tutorials for a refresher after these exercises, or for whatever higher end capabilities they talk about.

Adding Citations, Abstracts, Notes, Document attachments (&etc.) into RW

Getting Citations, Abstracts (Etc.) and Documents into RW 

There are different ways to do this.

1. Import references directly out of a database, if it allows it.

We'll focus on  Web of Science (WOS). Run a search using WOS . (There is a tutorial for WOS if you want to review it.)

Then import the items into RW.  To do so:

  • Run WOS search
  • Select items that you want to export to RefWorks.
  • Click the Export button.
  • Select RW from the drag down menu. 
  • You may have to allow a pop-up.
  • Also, you may have to sign in to RW.
  • Look for the imported records in RW.

2. Browser plug-in.

Follow the directions here to create a "Save to RefWorks" browser plug-in and try it out. It enables you to "scrape" websites and put citation data from them into RW.

Open a scholarly article from this journal and click on the plug-in on your browser. Check the citation that RW pulls in to see if it is accurate; if not, then edit it.

3. Manually create a RW record and then add the citation, abstract, and other data into it.

Click on the plus sign, upper left. On the drag-down menu, click "create new reference".
On the right, you can add data for title, authors, etc.  You can also add the full text of an article as an attachment. Try doing this with the article you already used above. With the RW record still open, click on the pencil icon so you can edit, then click on "Add an attachment".

4. Adding documents as attachments in RW.

Drag a scholarly article into RW if you have one on your drive. If not, to try out this feature, go to (just for example) this journal. Download a pdf to your drive. Then drag and drop it into the large blue circle that opens. You may have to click the "lightening bolt" icon. The software will try to capture the citation data. You may have to edit the data if it has inaccuracies.

You can also manually upload documents. For details, see Uploading Files as References.

5. Using "Search Databases" from within RW.

Click on "Search Databases". You can try this out for PubMed.  Make sure to restrict the search so you don't get too many results, for example, add publication year 2020 to your search. You won't be using the PubMed own interface and Medical subject headers, which give focused searching, but if you’re looking for some articles and not doing a really focused, thorough search, this is a way to bring in results. (Contact me if you need help with importing records from PubMed itself.)

When in RefWorks...

When in RefWorks...

1. Linking to Full Text: Lehigh Links

You can attach a document to a RW record, per above. Or, you can click on Lehigh Links out of RefWorks to get to the full text of an item or order it via  ILLiad. SFX is a "linking service" present in our bibliographic databases, but also in RW, that links to full text of electronic copies of articles in services for which Lehigh has a subscription or that are open access (freely available over the web). If we don’t have an item electronically, you can order it using the ILLiad form link on the SFX menu. ILLiad requires a one time registration. SFX fills out the ILLiad order form  for you, whether in RW or from a bibliographic database such as Web of Science. You can use ILLiad to order items from other libraries but also to order scans that we only have in print in our libraries.

2. Create and name a folder and put some of the records you just created into it.

Click on  My Folders. Right under My Folders you will see "+ Add folder". Create a folder, then go to the list of records. Click on one record. Go to the top and "Assign to Folder". 

3. Create a "Project". 

Projects enable you to batch references for separate projects you are working on. Try creating a new project. Go to the upper right, in the blue bar, and look for the downward arrow. Selct "Manage projects". Click on "Create a new project". 

4. Change the way the records display.

Go to "display" and try out the various displays.

5. Search on a keyword.

Search on a keyword to bring up a record with that keyword.

6. Use RW as a search tool for organizing your print copies of journal articles

You can use RW as a way to search for your journal papers. One way to do this, if you have a lot of papers, is to put numbers on the first page of each of your papers. Then, if you remember there was a paper about a particular topic or by a particular author, you can search for that paper in RW and find its number. So now you have a filing system for print papers, plus a way to find locate them in your filing system.

Format a Paper

Format a Paper

Now that you have gotten references into your RW "library", work on inserting citations into a paper.  For this exercise, to keep things simple, we will use the feature that does not involve using a plug-in. For details notes about using the plug-ins, please see the box at the bottom of this page.

Read the directions in the section "Copying References From RefWorks to Your Document" by scrolling down in this page.

Then do the following, 

With RW open, click on "Create Bibliography". Select Journal of Ecology style. Generate a bibliography. Now open a word document and put in some random text, as if you are writing a paper. (You can copy and paste text from any random webpage.) Then copy and paste the bibliography into the end of the paper.

Click on "Create Bibliography". Then select "Quick Cite". Make sure Journal of Ecology style is selected.
Paste some citations from individual articles into the text of the paper. These are "in-text" citations.

NOTE: creating a bibliography in this way can be helpful even if you are not writing a paper, but just want to create a "stand-alone" bibliography (that is, a bibliography independent of a paper). This can be helpful to create an annotated bibliography.

Using Writing Tool Plug-ins

Using Writing Tool Plug-Ins  

The exercise  above involved using RW to insert citations and bibliography into a paper, but without using the plug-in capability.

Here are notes about using the RW plug-ins.

This page describes the supported environments for the plug-ins Write-n-Cite (WnC) and RefWorks Citation Manager (RCM). As it notes, WnC is for Word 2016 and below, and RCM is for Word 2016 and above.

You'll see two plug-ins that you can use, WnC and RefWorks Citation Manager.

Below are some notes about these, including some notes from the vendor.


As you can see, users of Word 2016 have the choice of using WnC or RCM. While users have different personal preferences please note that since the release of the updated RCM version in May 2020, we recommend using RCM. While a few features available in WnC are not yet available in RCM, RCM has additional features and is continuously being developed. We continue to support WnC and plan to do so for the foreseeable future, however it is not a product that is being developed and that has been the case for the last few years. Therefore the recommendation would be to conclude existing papers on WnC and start new ones on RCM (a document cannot be moved from WnC to RCM or vice versa).

 WnC may work with Word 2019 but is not guaranteed by the vendor to work for it. Also, from vendor:

Oct 5, 2020

..., you should be able to use WNC in all Windows Word versions right now [though see above] It does not present any security issue. It is literally a mini-IE (or Safari) window that connects back to a modified presentation of the user's account.

.... In cases of RCM, the user will need to have IE or Safari installed for the tool to work. They will also need to be able to access and install apps from the Microsoft AppStore. Older versions of Word do not have access to the AppStore so that will help direct students appropriately.

When using the RefWorks Citation Manager plug-in, Internet Explorer (IE) runs in the background. Lehigh recommends against using IE, but see below about security in relation to IE:

From: E2C RefWorks <>
Date: Mon, Oct 5, 2020 at 9:13 AM
No it shouldn't you are not accessing the web directly using IE you are going through the Word API to our servers directly so there is not path for viruses or malware to hijack the browser. 

From: Brian Simboli []
Sent: 10/5/2020 4:01 PM

Lehigh discourages use of Internet Explorer, as mentioned in the URL I cited:    "LTS strongly urges all clients NOT to use Internet Explorer unless required. The security and virus protection provided by Internet Explorer is quite poor and may result in your computer becoming infected with viruses, malware, and pop-u   Does the configuration for accessing RCM create the problem mentioned here? Specifically: let's say I use a browser that does not face the problem that Lehigh mentions in above. Does the problem still exist? In other words, does Internet Explorer,  given that it is running behind the scenes, still create a potential problem? Brian Simboli  

Tips if you are using RCM:  after you have installed it, click on RCM at the top of an open Word document. Click on the RCM icon, upper left. This will open the pane on the right. Click on the hamburger icon (three stacked lines) and click on citation style. Select Journal of Ecology as the style. Also make sure "Bibliography" is turned on. As you add citations, the paper will automatically format in that style.