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RefWorks (Software Instruction)

RefWorks online software simplifies the process of research, collaboration, data organization, and writing by providing an easy-to-use tool for citation, bibliography, and reference management. Learn how to build a collection of references.

Adding PDFs to References

​PDFs (and Word documents) can be added to references in RefWorks. PDFs can be previewed, read, annotated, highlighted and commented on. (more about that below)

1. Select the reference by clicking on it - it should become shaded and the preview window will open on the right side. 


2. Click the edit icon (pencil) to open the citation in edit mode.









3. Click on the Attachment (paperclip) option on the edit screen. 



4. Use the browse function to locate the file you want to attach.




Reading PDFs in RefWorks

To open a PDF

Identify references that have PDF or Word (.docx) attachments via the attachment icon.

1. Select the reference by clicking on it - it should become shaded and the preview window will open on the right side. 

2. Click the Read button to open the document.

NOTE: For .docx (Word document) the button will say Download and the file will download instead of opening in the RefWorks application.


3. The document is now ready to read.

Working with PDFs

There are a number of actions that can be taken with PDFs in RefWorks. These actions will be carried over between shared references. i.e. comments will be visible to other users in the group.

When you open the PDF you will notice a horizontal toolbar across the top.

Left to Right: 

  • Return to (name of folder)
  • Zoom 
  • Print PDF
  • Download PDF
  • Highlight selected text
  • Comment on selected text
  • Document notes
  • Edit reference



1. Click the highlighter (icon will turn blue when active - see image above)

2. Click and drag the mouse over the desired text. The text will be highlighted in yellow (default colour).

3. (Optional) Click on the highlighted text to: 

  • Change colour to pink, green or blue
  • Add conversation (comment)
  • Delete conversation (comment) -- this also deletes the highlight 




Comments are attached to particular areas of the PDF. ex. you may highlight a section then add a comment to explain why the section was highlighted. 

1. Click the Comment on selected text (the icon will turn blue when active)

2. Click the mouse at the desired section. The placeholder text will be highlighted and a matching comments box will be displayed in the sidebar on the right. 

3. Enter your comments. You will note that there is a reply section to allow other editors to comment on your comments. 

4. Click the more icon on the comments box (three vertical dots) for more actions:

  • Change colour to pink, green or blue
  • Edit the conversation
  • Delete conversation 



The note function works like having a notepad attached to your PDF. These notes are not attached to the text in the document. They are accessible to others in the shared group.

1. Click on the Document Notes icon to open the notes sidebar.

NOTE: when there are document notes a blue circle will appear on the icon. 




Document Notes are always editable. Click the X to close the sidebar.


Edit Reference

The edit reference function will open an editable reference box. This allows you to edit the reference while viewing the PDF simultaneously. This allows for easier transcription of author names, etc.

1. Click on the Edit Reference icon to open the reference sidebar.

2. Edit reference. 

3. Click the Save button at the top of the sidebar.

You can also Undo your changes or Cancel and none of the changes made will be applied.