RefWorks and Zotero: What do they do?


Update: Western Libraries no longer supports RefWorks. They do have information and tutorials about how to best use the free citation management systems offered to students here.

Note: Western Libraries will have RefWorks until August 2015. If you are a Western RefWorks user, we recommend migrating your citations to Zotero, another citation management tool – it is free, and easy to use!

There are a variety of programs available to help you organize your research while you go: Western Libraries pays for access to one system called RefWorks.  I like to use the free Firefox plug-in called Zotero. While they do a lot more, these programs have a few major features:

  1. While you research, you can send resources’ citation information to RefWorks or Zotero.  This means that you’ll be able to find these references later and you don’t have to write them down as you go.  Usually (although there are some exceptions) this is a very easy process.
  2. You can create properly formatted bibliographies from the references you save with just the click of a button.  Most journal styles and citation formats are already inputted into Zotero and RefWorks (I’ve never had a problem finding the citation style of a Brescia professor).
  3. When you’re ready to write your paper, RefWorks and Zotero will also insert citations into Microsoft Word.  This really reduces the amount of time you need to spend worrying about in-text citations and bibliographies.

There are always cons to things that sound this awesome, especially when they involve technology.  My biggest issue with RefWorks is that importing citations isn’t always straight forward.  Sometimes it takes multiple steps and sometimes it messes up.  This means you still have to be diligent and pay attention while creating your list of references. Both Zotero and RefWorks do not necessarily format your bibliographies the way that your professors require, either.

This is just the tip of the iceburg about what these programs offer, so if you’d like to learn more you can visit RefWorks at Western Libraries and Zotero.