Referencing and RefWorks

RefWorks Guide

Please note the following guidance applies to Legacy RefWorks only. New/ProQuest RefWorks users should refer to our RefWorks Upgrade information.

RefWorks is a bibliographic management tool, which helps you store and organise your references. With RefWorks you can also create reference lists or bibliographies in formats such as RGU Harvard and RGU Vancouver, as well as formatting essays or dissertations to include in-text citations and reference lists.

Please remember you will always need to check that any of your citations, reference lists or bibliographies comply with the RGU Harvard Guide or RGU Vancouver Guide before submitting assignments, dissertations, etc.

RefWorks Upgrade

We are in the process of upgrading our RefWorks service. For more information please read our blog post. The guidance below applies to Legacy RefWorks only.

New RefWorks Users

Register for a ProQuest RefWorks account. You can view information on getting started on the service. We will provide our own updated guidance on these webpages in due course.

Existing Legacy RefWorks Users

Learn how to upgrade your existing account to a ProQuest RefWorks account. You can view information on getting started on the service. If required, you can still log in to use Legacy RefWorks.

Adding References to RefWorks

In order to use RefWorks you must populate it with citation or reference information. There are several ways to enter this information:

Adding Books from the RGU Library Catalogue

If you don't want to add the details of books manually, or want to upload multiple books' details at once, it's easy to pull this information directly from our RGU Library collection.

Step 1

From the grey menu located at the top of the screen, select Search. A drop-down list will appear, and the option you should be looking for is Online Catalogue or Database.

Step 2

There are a few choices to make here. Firstly, notice the drop-down menu next to Search; by default, this should display PubMed. Click on the down-arrow to expand the list of catalogues you can choose from, and search for Robert Gordon University Library, Aberdeen. Once you find us, click to select this option.

You can also choose how many results RefWorks should retrieve based on the keywords you will enter. It's 50 by default.

Step 3

Type in some relevant keywords to describe the topic you are researching. If you already have a book from our collections, you can search specifically for the title, and the book details will be retrieved. Once you are happy with your search terms, hit Search.

Step 4

Have a look through the list of results and tick the checkbox next to the books which you would like to add to your collection.

You can either add these to a folder (if you don't have a folder already, you can create a new one after you click on Import to folder...), or simply click Import, and your references will be added to a default folder called Last Imported.

Step 5

You'll be asked to confirm the import of the selected books. Hit OK.

Step 6

Depending on how many book references you want to import, this step may be very quick (if few books) or slightly longer (a few seconds wait if many books). So, don't get alarmed if it "hangs" slightly, there are a lot of background processes happening :)

Once you get the Import completed message, you can click on View Last Imported Folder to see them.

Adding Journal Articles from Databases

Although most of the databases we subscribe to have the functionality to export articles directly to RefWorks, some don't offer this option. The steps you'll need to take to export articles from a database and import them into RefWorks will vary depending on how the database is layed out. So, we set out a separate page which contains detailed procedures of how to export articles for most of our databases. If you are unsure about any of them, please let us know!

RefWorks: Importing from Databases

Adding Details Manually

Not everything can be done automatically, unfortunately some resources like images or webpages will need to be added in manually. Still, the process is really easy!

Step 1

You can either hover over the References option located on the grey menu bar at the top of the screen, then click Add New, or simply hit the New Reference button.

Step 2

There are a few things to fill in here. Firstly, make sure you select the correct RGU recommended referencing style. This could be either Harvard or Vancouver. Then, select the type of material from the drop-down menu.

You will notice that depending on the type of material you selected, the fields required change. For example, a webpage reference will ask for a URL and an Accessed date, whereas a journal article will ask for volume and issue numbers.

Start filling in the fields with the information you have about the source. If you are unsure, hover over the name of the field and a yellow box will appear, explaining what should go in the field and in what format.

Step 3

Make sure you fill in the fields correctly. Remember that the reference which RefWorks will eventually generate will only be as good as the information you filled in! :)

Don't forget to Save Reference. You can close this box afterwards.

Step 4

The reference should now appear in your collection, just as in this example.

Notice at the top how RefWorks indicates it is a Webpage Reference?

Using Folders

Folders are a useful tool for organising and locating your references when you access your RefWorks account. There is no limit to the number of folders you can create, and you can put references in more than one folder at the same time. It is useful to name your folders to something useful, such as the chapters of a thesis or dissertation, topics of your study, etc.

Creating Folders

First, click on the New Folder button at the top of the screen, and this window will pop up.

Then, you can give your folder a suitable name and hit Create. Notice that there is also an option to add a subfolder if you like.

If you select the Organise & Share Folders, you can see all your folders, locate any references not in a folder and rename, clear or delete any folders as needed. The folders can also be accessed from the menu that appears on the right of the screen at all times.

You can do things like clearing, renaming, sharing or deleting your folders by either clicking on the little folder icon next to the name, or by right-clicking on the title of the folder.

Adding References to Folders

It easy to add references to your folders, and you can do this at different stages. You can add them in an existing folder when you import them, or you can move them from your general collection, after they had been imported. You simply have to tick the box against the records you want to move, and hover over the 'yellow folder' button, then choose which folder you'd like them to go into.

Viewing, Editing, Searching References

Viewing References

To view a complete list of all your references, regardless of which folders they are located in, you can hover over References on the grey menu at the top of the screen. Here you can click on All References. Alternatively, you can see if you have any duplicate references, either Exact Duplicates or Close Duplicates.

You can also see the full details of individual references in your list by clicking on the little magnifying glass icon to the right of the reference.

From here you can also do things like edit the reference, duplicate, or delete it.

Editing References

There are cases when you may want to ajust information in one of your records, or add additional details. You can do this easily through the Edit menu. Just click on the little icon showing a paper and pencil, and an editing window will pop up. Notice that you can change the obvious details like authors, titles, years of publication. However, you can also:

  • add the reference to a folder
  • attach a file to the reference, like the PDF version of a journal article
  • add your own personal notes

To reveal these extra options, you need to click on Advanced. Don't worry, these additional details won't affect the look of the reference list once you generate it.

As always, don't forget to save your changes.

Searching your References

Once you have added some references to RefWorks, you will be able to search through them. You can perform a simple search from the Search bar located on the top-right corner of the screen. Although, if you select ‘Search’ on the top menu, you have a few more criteria:

  • ‘Author’ provides a list of authors – choose the one you want to search for.
  • ‘Descriptor’ provides a list of descriptors chosen by RefWorks and those which you have entered into the records yourself. Select the descriptor you wish to search for.
  • ‘Periodical’ provides a list of periodicals – choose the one you want to search for.
  • Try the ‘Advanced Search’ to search all fields or a specific field for your search term.

Citations, Reference Lists, Bibliographies

Inserting Citations Into a Word Document

It's easy to add citations from RefWorks into your essay, and it's the first step in getting RefWorks to format your document with the correct style of citations and reference list. Make sure you have both RefWorks and your Word document open, to make things easier for you. Once you find the record you want to insert in your essay click on the little golden curly brackets to the right of the reference.

Notice the overlay window called Citation Viewer. Copy the generated citation in your essay, at the point where you would normally cite.

Don't worry that it doesn't look quite like a proper RGU Harvard citation yet. It will do in the next step! It is very important that you copy this exactly as RefWorks generated it and that you don't remove or change any of the numbers or symbols appearing. Trust us! :)

At this stage you may want to add a different citation somewhere else in your essay. Remember to first Clear the Citation Viewer before you click on any other golden curly brackets.

If you don't clear the box, clicking on another record will add its abbreviated information to the existing citation. This may come in handy if you want to use multiple sources to back up one idea

The only thing left to do is to paste the RefWorks citations into your essay. This is just a mock-up example of how it may look, although we expect your essay won't be in latin! :)

Remember to save your document.


As an alternative to the method described above, you can use an option called Write-N-Cite, a plug in tool which you can install for Word. Find the link to download and install it in the Tools menu; guidance can be found in the Help section (in RefWorks).

Please note that students cannot use Write-N-Cite on university computers, but you can install it on your personal devices.

Creating the Reference List

First, hover over the Bibliography option on the grey top menu and select Format Document.

It is very important that you select the correct RGU Recommended referencing style here. Otherwise, your referencing list will not be according to our guidelines. Once you select either RGU Harvard or RGU Vancouver, you can upload the essay (the one with the citations with the curly brackets).

Depending on how big your work is, this step may take different periods of time. It will be fairly quick if it's a short essay with a handful of references, but much longer if you're uploading a dissertation! While you wait, RefWorks is now looking at your document, and wherever it finds its recognisable citations, it connects to your collection and pulls out the correct record and its details, generating an appropriate citation and reference list entry! A bit like magic :)

Once the process is finished, look out for this little message appearing on the bottom right corner of your screen.

You may get a download prompt from your browser, but if you don't, just click on the first 'click here' option. Once the newly generated Word file is downloaded, open it up and see the changes! All citations now look like they should, and there even is an RGU Harvard reference list at the end, in alphabetical order! :)

Please remember to check the document and the reference list and make any edits needed such as adding a heading to the list, any formatting required by your school/department, changes to the references, adding in page numbers for direct quotes and so on.


If you get an error message when trying to create your reference list try saving your word document in the Word 97-2003 format; using an earlier format of word can sometimes stop error messages being produced.

Creating a Bibliography

Before you begin, select the references which you want to include in your bibliography. You can either select them individually from your collection, or select all the references from one of the pre-set folders.

After you've made your selection, hover over the Bibliography option on the grey menu at the top, and hit Create Bibliography.

Then, make sure you select the correct RGU recommended referencing style (Harvard or Vancouver), and choose how you want the bibliography to be generated. The HTML option means that a new page will pop up with your references and you can simply copy them and paste them in your document. Alternatively, you can select the option of exporting them directly into a Word document.

Then, click on Create Bibliography and you will be prompted when the process is complete.

Remember to check the bibliography, make any edits needed and then either save and/or add it to your main piece of work.

Alumni Access

Alumni of the Robert Gordon University can get free access to RefWorks for as long as the University is a paid customer of RefWorks. This entitles you to:

  • One free RefWorks account
  • New updates and feature releases
  • 200 MB of file attachment storage
  • The ability to share your folder or account via refShare
  • Free Web-based training
  • Technical support

Creating an Alumni Account

To access RefWorks as an Alumni you will need a group code. To get it please either contact the library, or if you are a current student looking to set up access before you graduate, then find the code here (CampusMoodle).

Once you have the group code you can create your account:

  • Go to
  • Click on ‘Sign up for a new account’ and enter the Group Code.
  • Fill in the required information. Make sure you select Robert Gordon University in the ‘User Type’ field.
  • Click on ‘Create Account’ when you’re finished. Your new, empty RefWorks account is open.


It is very important that you keep your email address information up-to-date in your RefWorks account (you can update it at Tools, Update User Information). RefWorks may periodically change the Group Code for the Alumni site and you will receive notification of any change via email.

Please make sure you keep your account information updated.

Moving References from a current Account to an Alumni Account

The Backup/Restore feature allows you to make a copy of your database (including RefID numbers and folders) and custom output styles, into your new account.

Please Note - Folders that do not contain any references will not be saved. If you have empty folders that you wish to retain add a reference to the folder before backing up. Also, any preferences set in the customize area of RefWorks will be included in the backup.

To backup and restore your current RefWorks account:

In the current account:

  • Log in to your current RefWorks account and select Backup/Restore (from Tools or the References menu)
  • By default, Include References, Include RSS Feeds and Output Styles are selected. If you do not want to include them your references, deselect them.
  • Click on Perform Backup.
  • Save the file when prompted. If you are not prompted to save the file, select ‘Click here to save your backup file’ to download the backup.
  • The default file name is a combination of Robert Gordon University’s Group Code (or Athens Authentication coding) and your login name. It will be saved as a .zip or .rwb file. Please do not change the extension of the file as it is necessary to restore if you need to do so later.

In the new Alumni account:

  • Log in to your new RefWorks Alumni account and select Backup/Restore (from Tools or the References menu)
  • Select the Restore option and browse for the back up file (.zip or .rwb).
  • Select to ‘Include References’, ‘Include Output Styles’ and/or ‘Include RSS Feeds’ as desired.
  • Click on Perform Restore.


Restoring will overwrite all of the references in your database. If you need to restore from a back up for some reason, be sure to do so in either an empty database or to an account that does not have any data you want to save.

Known Problems

These are some of the current known issues / problems with RefWorks, along with any solutions we have identified for them. We are updating this page as issues are identified or fixed. Please contact us at if you have any queries or are experiencing any other problems.

Books being imported with more than one date

This sometimes happens when importing items using the 'search online catalog or database' facility. It can cause problems when adding citations to your essay and formatting the reference list / bibliography.

To fix it, click the Edit Record icon, delete one of the dates and save.

Sending information from Art Source to RefWorks

While Art Source primarily includes journal articles when the results are sent to RefWorks, they appear as the generic reference type rather than the journal article type. This is a problem as the generic reference type is substantially different to the journal article one.

To fix it click the Edit Record icon and from Reference Type select Journal Article type and save. All the information will be in the correct fields.

Further support for RefWorks

If you need further support with RefWorks please visit our Workshops and Appointments page where you will find:

  • A calendar of workshops that can be booked online. There are regular sessions on RefWorks during Semester 1 & 2
  • Drop-in sessions are also listed on the Workshops calendar. These are held in the Library and you can simply turn up and ask your question
  • Recordings of previous workshops
  • Information on how to book 1-1 or small group support appointments with one of our team

You can also email the team for support.

If you need some support please get in touch. We're happy to help!

How we can help

Appointments, workshops and email support are available during the Academic Support Team working hours of Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.

Appointment and email response times will depend on team availability and demands on the service. If you have an urgent deadline then please make us aware of that when you contact us and we’ll do our best to assist.

We are here to support your academic skills in a wide variety of areas including literature searching, databases, search techniques, referencing, RefWorks and more. We will:

  • Check your reference lists, provide useful comments where we notice issues, and point out areas requiring improvement. However, we don't carry out a full proofreading service or write references for you.
  • Advise on your search strategy, providing guidance to help you search more effectively and offer suggestions on where to search, but we don't carry out searches on your behalf.