Referencing and RefWorks

Referencing and RefWorks

Referencing, Citing and RefWorks

Importance of Referencing and Citing

It is essential that you correctly indicate in any written work when you are referring to or using the ideas and words of others. Failing to do so could lead to accusations of plagiarism - the unacknowledged use of other people's work. The best way to avoid this is to ensure that you are referencing and citing correctly. Further information and several Library Guides on Referencing can be found near the bottom of this page. There are a wide range of software solutions for managing your references, and to help you to write your work with correctly presented references. RefWorks is one such tool and is free for all University of Aberdeen students and staff to use. 


What is RefWorks?

RefWorks is web-based Reference Management Software that allows you to import and save references from online academic databases and other sources. You can then use these references when writing essays, dissertations etc., as it helps with formatting the references in the correct style and creating a bibliography or reference list for any piece of written work. RefWorks uses Word add-ons to help with the writing. These add-ons appear automatically on all classroom PCs but will need to be installed on your own machine. Details on these writing tools given below.


Two versions of RefWorks - Which should I use?

There are currently two versions of RefWorks available. The older, Legacy version, has been used at the University of Aberdeen for a number of years and will continue to be available. The Legacy version does not provide the more modern features available in New RefWorks but is much better at managing and working with large numbers of references, and we therefore recommend that academic staff and postgraduate researchers continue using Legacy RefWorks. Work continues on improving this element of New RefWorks and once we know this work has been done we will begin to recommend New RefWorks for all staff and students. 

The tables below provide guidance on which version to use depending on User Type, Operating System or Writing Add-on.

User Type

  New Undergraduate Continuing Undergraduate New Taught Postgraduate Continuing Taught Postgraduate Postgraduate Researcher Academic Staff
New RefWorks Yes Your choice Yes Your choice No No
Legacy RefWorks No Your choice No Your choice Yes Yes


Operating System

  Office365 Mac OS
New RefWorks Yes Yes
Legacy RefWorks Yes No


Writing Add-on

  Write-N-Cite (WNC) Reference Citation Manager (RCM)
New RefWorks No Yes
Legacy RefWorks Yes No


Can I change from Legacy RefWorks to New RefWorks? Yes, you can create a New RefWorks account and transfer any references you already have in your Legacy account. More details on exactly how to do this are given below.


Referencing with RefWorks

Details below on creating new accounts, tranfserring references between Legacy and New RefWorks, and how to use the two different writing tools that come with RefWorks.

New RefWorks - New Undergraduates and Taught Postgraduates

We encourage new undergraduates and taught postgraduates to create a New RefWorks account to manage their references and correctly format them within written work. To create an account and begin using this useful software consult the library's New RefWorks - Quick Guide.

Further guidance is also available:

Getting Started with New RefWorks - series of short videos

ProQuest New RefWorks LibGuide


New RefWorks - Returning Undergraduates and Taught Postgraduates

You can continue using Legacy RefWorks if you already have an account, but it is possible to create a New RefWorks account using the instructions in the section directly above, and then import your Legacy RefWorks records into your New RefWorks account using the guidance below.

How to import Legacy RefWorks references to New RefWorks

Legacy RefWorks - Academic Staff and Postgraduate Researchers

What is RefWorks?

RefWorks is web-based reference management software which makes storing references and generating bibliographies easy.

Login to or Sign Up for RefWorks.

Very Important Information

Please note that RefWorks is a sophisticated tool and our normal training would spread over 2 hours. Due to the current complexities of students training off-campus on a multitude of different personal devices rather than in a networked classroom environment, when we do offer training it will be on simplified aspects of RefWorks. This will not involve Write-N-Cite. 

Library guides on RefWorks

Due to time investment needed for RefWorks it may be worth looking at simpler alternatives to get started with, e.g. Zotero, Cite This For Me, Mendeley. There is a software comparison guide in the Taught Postgraduates tab (Part 5) of our wiki

RefWorks and Mac computers

The Microsoft Word plug-in for RefWorks, called Write-N-Cite, does NOT currently work with Word 2016 on Macs. RefWorks are currently working on this compatibility issue.

It is still possible for such users to make use of the One Line/Cite View method of inserting citations into Word 2016 documents on Macs.


Please note that RefWorks does not support the OSCOLA referencing style used by the School of Law. 


What does RefWorks do?

  • Stores useful references in a personal database
  • Imports references from the University of Aberdeen Library Catalogue
  • Imports references directly from external databases, e.g. Scopus, CSA and Web of Science
  • Formats bibliographies and citation styles automatically for essays, papers, reading lists and project/thesis work

We give advice and training on using this important software.

Accessing RefWorks

Who can use it?

All registered members of the University of Aberdeen are eligible to use RefWorks.

How do I access it?

Go to RefWorks login

Do I need a password?

Authorisation to use the RefWorks software is by login name and password. The facility can be accessed from on and off-campus and initial registration is also possible from any location.

Please note that when registering off-campus, you will be required to enter a Group Code in addition to a login name and password. Full details are given on our passwords page.

RefWorks Guides and Help

The Library provides a number of guides to using RefWorks. They can be found on our Library Guides webpage. 


What does Write-N-Cite do?

Write-N-Cite helps you create a document in Word with RefWorks open at the same time - citations can be chosen and included in the text as you write. It can then create a bibliography at the end of your document, in a referencing style of your choice.

How do I install it?

Write-N-Cite is already installed on the desktop of all classroom networked PCs, but you must install this utility onto your personal computer.

How do I install Write-N-Cite on my personal computer?

  • Login to your RefWorks account

  • From the Tools menu select Write-N-Cite

  • Choose the version you need for your computer (Windows or Mac) and download and install

  • Read the Installation Instructions before downloading and installing.

How do I install Write-N-Cite on an office PC? (for staff and PGR office machines)

  • Click on the Windows icon at the bottom of the screen on your PC and click on Microsoft System Center
  • Select Software Center
  • Check the Installed Software tab first. Is Java installed?
    • if no: click on the Available Software tab, find Java and install it. Then install Write-N-Cite
    • If yes: install Write-N-Cite


Writing Tools - Reference Citation Manager or Write-N-Cite?

RefWorks allows you to create and manage a web-based collection of the references you may use when producing written work. It also allows you to correctly format those references by using Writing Tools that operate as add-ons within Microsoft Word. There are two different tools available, and the one you use depends on a handful of factors. 

RefWorks Citation Manager (RCM)

RCM is the newest RefWorks writing tool that accompanies New RefWorks. It has already been added to Microsoft Word on campus classroom PCs. 

Write-N-Cite (WNC)

WNC has already been added to Microsoft Word on campus classroom PCs. WNC is the previous generation of writing tool and does not support the newest operating systems. It is not compatible with Word 2016 on a Mac.


Detailed guidance on choosing between RCM or WNC

Other Reference Management Software

See PDF for a comparison of popular Reference Management software and methods.

Referencing Library Guides

Referencing and Citing - Guides

It is essential you record what you have read and referred to in your written work, both within the text (citing) and at the end of your written work (bibliography). It is vital that you acknowledge what resources – print and electronic (including the Web) - you have referred to in your assignment, dissertation or thesis. If you don’t, you can be accused of plagiarism - the unacknowledged use of other people’s words and ideas. This is cheating.

Check your course handbook or ask your supervisor about the preferred citation style for your School.

REMEMBER - you can lose marks for poor referencing.

Help and advice

Visit the Student Learning Service site for advice on how to avoid plagiarism.

Library Guides on Referencing