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University of York Library
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Reference Management: a Practical Guide


This is a practical guide to help you organise your citations and papers using reference management software.

Sharing references

So you've got all these references, but what if someone else needs to see them? Reference managers often have built-in tools to help you share references with others who have the same software, and you can export your library in a common format to import into other tools.

Working collaboratively with reference management

Working collaboratively with others requires a lot of different skills and tools. It is important to be able to manage and organise the information you find in a way that all the collaborators can access. Choosing the right reference management tool for shared libraries and collaborative working may depend on the functionality needed and which software people are already using.

Typically, most reference managers have tools to share either selected references or a whole library with other users of that software. If you're working with others collaboratively on a project or literature review, you may need to coordinate so you all use the same tool for that piece of work - think about what everyone might have access to, particularly if not everyone is at York.

Paperpile does allow you to share papers via a link so people without a Paperpile account can still view the list, but they can't work collaboratively on the list like they would be able to if they had a Paperpile account - see Paperpile's help on sharing for more on the difference.

Exporting references

You may need to 'share' your references with yourself, i.e. move your references into a difference reference manager. This may be to make use of functionality only available in particular tools, for example if you want to cite in Word but have used Paperpile, or want to use a footnoted style more easily (which can be done in Mendeley and Zotero but not EndNote).

This can be achieved by exporting your library in either RIS or BibTeX format and then importing this file into a different application. As well as your whole library, you can typically export only some of your references, though if there's any chance you might need them all it is probably better to export the whole library unless you have storage space issues.

Sharing text documents

If you're not trying to share your reference library, but instead a text document containing cited references, you need to make sure the document is no longer linked to your reference manager before you send it to someone else. The Cite page has more information about why you need to do this, but you are looking for an option to export to a plain text document or without Word fields.

Sharing references with EndNote

EndNote logo

EndNote Desktop has a feature to share your whole library with others, meaning you can collaborate on a library for research and projects. If you use EndNote Online, you can share Groups with others as well (having an EndNote online account is also useful for backing up your library).

Library sharing in EndNote desktop

You can share your existing EndNote library or work as a team to create a collaborative library from scratch.

Sharing in EndNote relies on their sync service, so you must set up your EndNote account and fully sync your library before it can be shared. If you've not done this already, choose the Sync icon on the toolbar to start the process.

To share an EndNote library, choose File, then Share... and enter the email addresses of the people you want to share it with. You can share one library from your desktop. You can remove anyone's access to the shared library at any time by going to File then Share... again.

Joining a shared library

If you are invited to join a shared library, you will need an EndNote account.

Your EndNote account needs to be connected to your version of EndNote Desktop. To do this, go to Edit, then Preferences, then choose the Sync tab from the left-hand side.

Once connected, you can choose File then Open Shared Library to open the library that has been shared with you. There is no limit on the number of libraries that can be shared with you by others.

Sharing Groups

You can also share specific Groups in EndNote, using your Endnote online account (though you can share a Group from within Endnote desktop as long as you have your EndNote online account synced).

When using EndNote Online, you can manage your Groups and share them with others by choosing the Organize tab and looking under Manage My Groups. You can then choose which Groups to share and manage that sharing using email addresses. Groups other people have shared with you can be found under Others' Groups, also in the Organize tab.

In EndNote desktop, you'll see any Groups shared with you on the left hand pane under your other groups. You can share Groups by right clicking on that group and choosing 'Share Group...' which will bring up a dialogue box to enter the email addresses of those you want to share it with.

Note: if you want to use a Group someone else has shared with you with the Cite While You Write plugin for Word, you will have to go to EndNote online, then Organise > Other's Groups, and then make sure that both 'Show' and 'Use for Cite While You Write' are ticked (and then restart Word if you already had it open).

Sharing references with Paperpile

Paperpile logo

Paperpile has two different ways of sharing references and papers with others. Sharing references by link or email is a quick way of allowing others to view certain references through a unique link, whereas using a shared folder allows for a collaborative list of references that can be added to and have items removed too.

Paperpile sharing via link or email

Paperpile includes a quick way to share either single references or multiple selected references either by sending others an email directly through Paperpile or by sharing a unique link with them.

To use this sharing function, select one or more references in your Paperpile library then choose the Share button from the top. Select Share via Link or Email. You can also use the shortcut Shift+S to open the Share via Link or Email dialogue box.

You can then either copy the link and share it with people, or add email addresses to the 'Send an email' section. You can customise this email with your own message and it sends the same link as the one you can copy and share.

Shared folders

You can use Shared Folders on Paperpile to create a shared collection to which you can add or remove items and collaborate on a shared reference list with other Paperpile users. Sharing folders work like regular folders in Paperpile, except that multiple users can access the folder and add and remove items.

To create a shared folder, select some references and then choose Share then Create New Shared Folder.

  • Each shared folder gets a unique link to share, which provides a read-only view of the items that can be shared with anyone.
  • To give other Paperpile users the ability to add and remove items in your shared folder, add their email addresses to the Invite collaborators area. Use the same email address that they use for their Paperpile account.

Anyone with access to a shared folder can do the following:

  • manage who has access to the folder. The only exception is that nobody can remove the folder's owner
  • add or remove references and papers from the folder, as well as add or remove subfolders
  • copy references and papers to their personal library

Sharing references with Zotero

Zotero logo

Zotero allows you to create groups for collaboration and then have shared group libraries to collaboratively manage materials.

Groups and sharing

Zotero has a feature called Groups which allows you to collaborate with other people on a separate Group Library.

Groups can be private, which means they have a set group of invited members and can't be found online on Zotero's website, or they can be public and have open or closed membership.

You can create a group from within the Zotero desktop application by cicking on the 'New Library' icon and then choosing 'New Group', or you can create them from the Groups page on Zotero's website.

Zotero's support page on Groups has more details on the kinds of groups and how to set them up.


Once you've gone over the material on this page, try the following exercises to apply your knowledge:

  1. Firstly, you'll need to find someone to test sharing references with - if you don't know anyone else who uses the same reference manager, you can try out the steps without actually setting up any sharing.
  2. Look over the sharing options for your reference manager and decide which would be most useful to you.
  3. Try setting up a shared folder/library/group as appropriate, and then try adding and removing references from that shared space to see what happens.
  4. You may also want to try out exporting your library or a group of references in RIS format. If you have another reference manager available, you could try importing into there.

By the end of this section, you should have tried out sharing options and decided if any might be useful to you.