Benefits Of Using Refworks Bibliography

As a graduate student, you read broadly in your discipline at the beginning of your career. When you move on to work on your research papers, a master's thesis, or your dissertation, you're reading deeply into your topic. No matter what stage of your graduate career, it pays to set up a Citation Management System (CMS).

There are numerous benefits to using a management system: You keep your notes in one place, your notes are searchable, and you don’t lose track of what you’ve read (especially helpful if returning to an area that you may have worked on years ago). These Management Systems make it easier to find a quote or citation that you are including in your own work. This is vital for maintaining academic integrity.  When you’re writing a paper or a thesis, you might remember an idea from a book or article you used in the past. In order to properly cite where you first learned about the idea, you’ll want to be able to search your notes easily and have all the information for the citation at hand.  By using a citation management system, you can easily trace the origin of your idea and give credit where it’s due. This is vital for maintaining academic integrity.

Another bonus? Management systems help you format your bibliography at the end of a project.  If you’re writing a dissertation and have fifteen pages of sources, getting the formatting just right won’t be a struggle.

There are many citation management systems available for free or for sale. Here are just a few of the freely-available systems:


Because it’s compatible with Encore, UNL’s online catalog, RefWorks may be the only CMS you'll ever need. You can export a source directly from Encore into RefWorks, rather than typing in each field individually. This will save you time and minimize typos! RefWorks is free to UNL students. You may not know whether the next institution you work for will have free access, so consider what you’ll do with your citations (and how you’ll access them) once you graduate.


One of the free citation management systems, Mendeley may be a good choice for you if you’ll be graduating soon or if you also want to manage PDFs. You can import and organize your PDFs, a boon for accessing journals online. Like RefWorks, Mendeley generates citations and bibliographies. Another benefit to using Mendeley is being able to collaborate with other authors or teammates from the same lab. You can create groups that are either public or private and share documents.


Zotero allows you to collect all of your research materials: PDFs, images, audio, and video files. Rather than using folders, Zotero uses searchable tags. You can use one tag across a number of collections and sub-collections. You can use the library’s categories for tagging your own research. Like the resources listed above, Zotero also allows you to format your citations in a number of styles (APA, MLA, and hundreds more). Like Mendeley, you can also collaborate with coworkers or reading groups to share resources and notes.

In addition to these three tools, there are many more out on the market. To find the citation management system that works best for you, try watching online tutorials to see if one system seems more intuitive than another. Also talk to your colleagues. They may prefer one system over another. Using the same system may make collaboration easier.

Remember: start using a citation management system now and you’ll make your work throughout graduate school more efficient. If you’ve been tracking your work consistently, putting together literature reviews, writing a journal article, or preparing for your comprehensive exams is a snap!

For more digital resources that can aid your work in graduate school (with recommendations beyond citation management systems!), see the full article.

Using RefWorks

The following module will describe the benefits of using RefWorks throughout the research and writing cycle to help with citation management and writing.

Learning Objectives

After completing this segment, learners will be able to:

  • Identify the primary uses for RefWorks.
  • Identify RefWorks resources available through the Library.
  • Identify multiple ways to add citation information to RefWorks.
  • Understand the benefits of using Write-N-Cite.

About RefWorks

Refworks is web-based bibliographic management software that enables users to easily store, organize, and manage citation information as well as generate bibliographies in a wide variety of citation styles.  It includes a plug in called Write-n-Cite that can be used with Microsoft Word to easily insert citations and automatically generate a bibliography for content cited in a paper.  This can save the researcher considerable time that is typically lost locating citation information and manually entering and correctly formatting citations.

RefWorks functions as a personal database of citation information that is accessible anywhere that Internet access is available.  Researchers can quickly add bibliographic information during the research process in several different ways. Citation information can be directly exported to RefWorks from many of the library databases and even from Google Scholar.  Citations stored in different bibliographic software programs, such as EndNote and Zotero can be imported.  Citations can also be manually entered.  Once citations are in RefWorks, they can be organized, edited, and searched. Duplicate checking is available.

Getting Started with RefWorks

Before using RefWorks, GCU users will need to set up their free RefWorks account.  To set up this account, you must either be on campus, or log in to RefWorks through the GCU Library Website.  Once your account has been created, you can access RefWorks either through the library or directly at  If you previously had a RefWorks account through another institution, you can move the citations from that account to the new account you set up through GCU. Please contact the library for assistance with this.

Using Write-n-Cite

When you are ready to write your research findings, Write-n-Cite is a great tool for formatting your in-text citations and bibliography.  To download Write-N-Cite, log in to your RefWorks account and locate Write-N-Cite in the Tools menu.  Select the correct version to download and install based on your operating system and version of Word. Be sure to copy the Download Code on the download page.  You will need this later to connect Write-N-Cite to your RefWorks account.

After installation, open Word.  You will see a RefWorks tab in the Office ribbon.  Go to this tab and click on Log in. You will need either the Download Code or the RefWorks Group Code to log in.  Contact the library for assistance if you need the Group Code.  Log in using the credentials you created for RefWorks. After this initial login, Write-N-Cite will remain connected to your RefWorks account unless you log out. 

Syncing your RefWorks database to Write-N-Cite makes all of the citation information in your RefWorks account available for you in Word without an active Internet connection.  For this reason, you may want to sync Write-N-Cite any time you add new references to RefWorks.

Getting Help

There are many ways to get help with using RefWorks and Write-N-Cite. Refworks has extensive help files available on their website as well as a LibGuide.  The GCU Library offers a monthly RefWorks webinar, where you will learn how to create an account, export from the Library databases, and manually create citations.  The Library also has a Guide with information on Citing Sources that includes some basic information on RefWorks. Please feel free to contact the library directly for additional help.


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