NELSON and RefWorks – capturing your references

FAQ: How can I save items from NELSON to my RefWorks account?

NELSON is Library and Learning Services’ new resource discovery tool.  It searches across a range of services including journals (full-text and abstract), ebooks and the library catalogue.

While researchers often benefit from searching databases directly, one advantage NELSON offers is a standard interface for several functions and services, including RefWorks, the University’s reference management software. RefWorks lets you collect, manage, share and annotate your references, and helps you cite them in Word. Whatever you find in NELSON, exporting it to RefWorks is quick and painless. In this post I’ll show you how to copy single and multiple items from NELSON into your RefWorks account.

The importance of being logged in

If you’re settling down for a lengthy research session, it’s a good idea to log into RefWorks before you begin – you’ll stay logged in as long as your browser is open, and the export process will be as seamless as possible.

Importing a single item

Every item NELSON finds will have a Details tab, which provides additional bibliographic information and a few useful tools:

NELSON's Details tab

When you find an item you want to add to your RefWorks library, click the Details tab to load these features, and look for the Send to button on the right:

NELSON's Details area

This will open a menu with several export options, one of which is RefWorks:

NELSON's RefWorks export option

Click the RefWorks link and a new RefWorks window will open. You should see a message telling you your import was successful (if you see a message saying otherwise, please let us know). From this point the reference is inside RefWorks and can be managed with the standard RefWorks tools – please see the RefWorks help pages for more details.

Importing multiple items

During a long research session, you may find it more useful to use NELSON’s e-Shelf. The e-Shelf lets you quickly save your results as you search, so you can export them all together when you’re finished (it does more besides – for full details of the e-Shelf features, see the e-Shelf help page).

To add items to your e-Shelf, just click the star next to each item’s title. The star turns yellow to show the item has been added:

NELSON e-Shelf star

When you’re ready to send your save items to RefWorks, click the e-Shelf link in the top right of the screen:

NELSON's e-Shelf link

You’ll see a list of all the titles you’ve added:

The NELSON e-Shelf

You can file and save these items within NELSON itself, and/or export them in various ways. To export to RefWorks, the first step is to select the items you want using the tick box on the left. If you want to export all the items, just tick the box at the top:

Selecting e-Shelf items in NELSON

Now look over on the right for the Select how to save drop-down and change it to Push to RefWorks:

The NELSON e-Shelf Push to button

Click Go and, as with single item exports, a new RefWorks window will open and your e-Shelf items will be imported. Again, if you experience problems with this, please let us know.


RefWorks is a powerful tool for gathering and managing research material. NELSON offers a straightforward interface for searching library resources, and fast tools for saving useful items to RefWorks. In future posts we’ll take a look at how other,  more specialised databases interact with RefWorks, but for broad searches you may find NELSON and RefWorks a very useful combination.

Thumbnail image by Colin Smith, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons).
Citation Needed by, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)

Posted on October 22, 2012, in Library and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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