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Citation Management : Mendeley

A guide for all things citation management.

What is Mendeley?

Mendeley is a reference manager (and PDF organization tool for your hard drive) that serves as a bridge between your literature searches and finished papers. With Mendeley you can manage citations and PDFs, insert citations to a Word document, and create a bibliography. Mendeley also has many helpful features for citing in LaTeX.

Mendeley is owned by Elsevier.

Access Mendeley

Mendeley logo




Access Mendeley. Download the Mendeley desk top product and sign up for the online version.


An important notice about account creation. Following Elsevier's acquisition of Mendeley, Mendeley has been integrated into the Elsevier account ecosystem. One option Elsevier provides is authentication via CAS/netID credentials. If you want to use Mendeley Desktop, do not create an account using Shibboleth or an institutional account (their wording) at this time. As of December 2018, the desktop (non-web) version of the software does not support institutional account logins.

Otherwise, Mendeley is a freemium tool — it is not included in our Elsevier subscriptions, and individuals and labs generally pay for their own access beyond the free account levels.

Create a Bibliography

There are two options to create a bibliography using Mendeley:

How to use the Word plugin

Click Insert Bibliography

Note: You can change your citation style in the Mendeley toolbar or find more tools.

How to use a folder

If you are coming into Mendeley at the last minute and would prefer not to use the Word plugin (or have a different word processor), the best way to get your references into your bibliography is to create a folder in Mendeley.

  • Drag and drop your references into your folder.
  • Navigate to that folder, select one of the references, and then click CTRL+A (for PC users) or Command+A (for Mac users) to copy the reference.
  • Right-click to pull up the menu and click Copy As > Formatted Citation.
  • You can now paste that text into your document.

Note: You will need to make sure that you are using the correct citation style before creating your bibliography from a folder. Citation styles can be found within View > Citation Style.

Mendeley and LaTeX

Mendeley has many helpful features for citing in LaTeX:

  • In Preferences or Options, navigate to the BibTeX tab.
  • Ensure that Escape Special Characters is selected.
  • You can also use journal abbreviations or set up Mendeley to sync a .bib file to a specific folder.
  • To copy .bib-formatted entries manually to paste into a .bib file (or into an online editor such as ShareLaTeX or Overleaf), first create a folder for your references.
    • Drag and drop relevant references into that folder.
    • Navigate to that folder, select one of the references, and then click CTRL+A (for PC/Linux users) or Command+A (for Mac users).
    • Right-click to pull up the menu and click Copy As > BibTeX entry.
    • You can paste that text into your .bib file.
  • More information on citing in LaTeX is available on the Bib Your TeX guide.

Tips for Getting Started with Mendeley

Add References

How to add references on Mendeley for desktop

Option 1: Watched Folders

  • In Preferences or Options go to the Watched Folders tab.
    • You can set Mendeley up to see whenever you download a new PDF to a folder.
    • Note: We do not recommend Watching your Downloads folder, as Mendeley will attempt to import anything it finds there.

Option 2: Import Files and Folders

  • Drag and drop a PDF file or folder of PDFs into the desktop application. Mendeley will extract citation information for that file.

Option 3: Enter Data Manually

  • Click the drop-down arrow beside the Add icon or go to File > Add Entry Manually to bring up the dialog box to import a file manually.
    • Note: if you have a PubMed ID or digital object identifier (DOI), you can normally use the magnifying glass tool to auto-populate the fields.
How to add references to Mendeley web version

Use the Mendeley Web Importer (available for many modern browsers)

Note: for each of these methods, the data Mendeley can scrape from a PDF depends on how clean the source data is — garbage in, garbage out!

Write a Paper (in Word)

Depending on your version of Mendeley, the Word toolbar might appear under either References or Add-ins.

  • Mendeley should install and update the Word plugin by default. Check by visiting Tools > Install Word Plugin.
  • In Word, put the cursor where you would like a citation to appear.
  • Click Insert or Edit Citation and look up a paper. Additional options for page numbers and other material in the parentheses can be found by clicking on the Lastname Year in the text box.
  • Another option is to select Go to Mendeley in the dialog box, look for the citation, and send the citation to Word.
    • This process is not obvious!
      • After you click Go to Mendeley, two new buttons will appear in the icon panel between Sync and Help.
      • Once you select the citation(s), click the quotes icon.
  • To add page numbers, you can edit the citation and pull up the additional options in the same way as the previous bullet.