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How to Import References Into Mendeley

Getting Started

Getting Started

This guide includes instructions for databases that are being used for class research assignments – currently mostly courses in the life and health sciences.

This guide is still a work in progress. Let us know if you need a write-up of a database not yet included here.

Manually Importing References

General Manual Export Method

Very few research databases offer a direct export to Mendeley option. Instead you have to manually export your references as a text file formatted as either RIS or BibTeX which you then import into Mendeley.

In your database:
  1. Run a search on your topic in a Library database and mark one or more references of interest.
  2. Look for "export" or "save" or "citation" in the database's options (the terminology varies by database).
  3. Select the "RIS Format" (sometimes called EndNote or Reference Manager format) option as your method of export. Alternatively, you may find "BibTeX Format" as an export option. Mendeley will be able to import either format.
  4. Save the export file to your computer desktop or download folder so you can find it again in Mendeley.
In Mendeley:
  1. Login to Mendeley if you are not already.
  2. In your Mendeley library, click the "Add" button.
  3. Select "Import RIS (.ris)" or "Import BibTeX (.bib)" as appropriate.
  4. Browse your computer's desktop for the file that you saved from the research database.
  5. Highlight and "Open" it to import the references into your Mendeley library.

Importing References Using PDFs

Importing References Using PDFs

Mendeley has a simple way of importing references by simply dragging them into your Mendeley Library. This works both in the web-based and Desktop versions of Mendeley. 

  1. Save the article PDF(s) on your computer desktop or download folder so you can find them again.
  2. Login to Mendeley and go to your Library.
  3. Drag each article PDF directly on top of your Mendeley Library list. You should get a visual confirmation from the interface that Mendeley understands that you want to "move" a PDF to your Library.
  4. Mendeley will parse the text of the article looking for elements to add to the citation.

Caveat: It is not uncommon for Mendeley to fail to recognize everything required to have a complete citation and sometimes it will fail entirely. Check your citation style rules to see what the required fields are. However, because you have the source document, you can easily edit the citation to fill in or correct whatever is missing.

Watched Folders

When you place a document in a watched folder, it will be automatically added to Mendeley so you can annotate, cite, and browse its references instantly. Adding files to Mendeley using watched folders makes it easier to add multiple papers in one go and keep them where you want on your computer. Watched folders requires Mendeley Desktop.

Importing Using Browser Extension

Importing Using Browser Extension

Not all databases export references in either RIS or BibTeX format. Consequently, the best way to import references may be to use the Mendeley Importer browser extension or bookmarket. Mendeley Importer comes as a native extension for Chrome and Firefox and as a bookmarklet for all browsers.

  1. Perform a search on your topic in your database.
  2. Depending on the database, you may be able to user Mendeley Importer to import from the results list. If that fails, see if it will import viewing an individual record.
  3. Before saving the record in Mendeley Importer, review the fields to ensure that all the required information has been imported and that the record type assignment is correct.

Caveat: If you use Ebook Central, the Mendeley Importer browser extension for Chrome and Firefox should not be used. The extension causes a constant refreshing of the screen when viewing an e-book's Detail Page. Instead, use the bookmarklet version of Mendeley Importer.

Install Mendeley Importer bookmarklet: Drag this Save to Mendeley button to your bookmark/favorites toolbar. Clicking it from any database results page will launch Mendeley Importer.

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