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Citation Managers Comparison

Adding References to Your Citation Manager

References you want to save from your search of a database can be sent to citation managers via a specially installed web capture tools or from databases in the form of a Direct Export or an Indirect Export.

  • Web Capture Tool - occurs over the web
    • All of the citation managers mentioned here allow you to configure a citation metadata web capture tool in your browser of choice. This "reads" the metadata behind the page or items you are looking at (embedded code about who the author/s is/are, the date it was published, the publisher, etc...) and imports them as new records into your citation manager. Each citation manager's version of this web capture tool is described in its corresponding section of this guide.
  • Direct Export - occurs over the web. 
    • Most databases allow you to send your results directly to RefWorks, which is a purely online resource.
    • Sometimes, you will have the option to perform a direct export to EndNote Online (aka EndNote Web), Mendeley Online, or Zotero Online. From there, you must sync you online and desktop libraries in order for the newly imported records to appear in both places.
    • PubMed is one of the few databases that does not allow you to directly export results to RefWorks.
  • Indirect Export - occurs when you download your selected results as a list of marked up text in a machine-readable file and upload it into your citation manager to populate as distinct references.
    • Sometimes this is a two-step process where you must manually download the file, temporarily save it somewhere, and then upload it from within your citation manager.
    • You can make it a one step process because most citation managers have helper files or other shortcuts that will make your references automatically populate in your desktop reference manager. In this way, the process of getting records into your desktop citation managers becomes as seamless as the one-click direct export option over the web.

Remember to always sync you desktop and online libraries in order for the newly imported records to appear in both places

On the next tab, "Popular Database Export Examples" are examples of how to direct or indirect export a bulk list of references to a citation managers. The example databases shown here include the Embase, CINAHL (via Ebsco), ProQuest, and PubMed platforms/databases. PubMed which lacks a direct export option for RefWorks has been saved for last.

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