RefWorks or EndNote?—A Comparison of Options for Managing Citations

EndNote has long been a standard bibliographic management tool for researchers, term paper writers and anyone else working with large files of citations.  Now, thanks to funding from CIT and the Cornell University Library, there’s another choice for citation management on campus—RefWorks (

Both RefWorks and EndNote allow you to easily import references into a database for storing and organizing, and then make it a snap to use those records for inserting citations and generating a bibliography in a word document. 

Which one is right for you?  The table below highlights differences. The most significant differences are that RefWorks is web-based, easy to learn, and free to the Cornell community. EndNote must be purchased and loaded onto a computer, but it is also fuller-featured and more customizable—and thus has a steeper learning curve. 

Current EndNote users might find RefWorks a handy tool to use for research on the go. Anything imported into RefWorks can easily be transferred to EndNote later (and vice versa). 

For questions about either program, contact

RefWorks vs. EndNote—A Comparison



Where can I use it?

Anywhere with web access

On computers with EndNote installed.
Recently released EndNote web seems a bit buggy.

How much does it cost?

Free to Cornell faculty, staff and students (including Qatar, &NYC, &Geneva) while working or studying at Cornell

Individual copy must be purchased.
Student discount available at Campus Store or downloadable through

Is it easy to learn?

Basics are easy to learn


Campus Workshops available?

Yes: schedule

Yes: schedule

Where are my files stored?

Remotely, on the web (local backups may be made as well)

Locally, on your computer

Search compatible databases directly from program?

Yes, depending on database

Yes, depending on database

Export directly to program from database?

Yes, depending on database

Yes, depending on database

How many output styles (MLA, APA, etc.)?

 Over 500

 Over 1000

Modify and create output styles?



Modify and create import filters?

No, must be requested from RefWorks


Import Word bibliographies or Excel documents?

Technically yes, with custom markup & filter, but cutting
and pasting is faster

Yes, with custom markup & filter, but only worth it
for more than 10 records. See "Creating a Custom Tagged
Format" in the Endnote manual url=

Insert full text?

Yes, cut and paste text into one of the user fields

Yes; limit is about 5000 words per field

References include link to “Get it! Cornell”?


Yes, using Enable Open URL feature

Link to images and other files stored locally?



Store attachments-- images, mp3, PowerPoint, and other files with citation?

Yes -
but Beta (test phase)


Automatically format Word docs on a Mac?



Write papers offline?

Yes, with workaround


Compatibility issues?


Libraries created in earlier versions must be converted

Work collaboratively with colleagues?

Yes—groups at Cornell can create a shared account

Yes, but more difficult—an administrator puts an Endnote library online. Must have server space

Import EndNote files into RefWorks, and vice versa?

Yes—export from Endnote with “RefMan(RIS) Export” output style & import into RefWorks with “EndNote (RIS)” filter

Yes—export from RefWorks with “Bibliographic Software” output style & import with “Reference Manage (RIS)” filter

What happens when I leave Cornell?

Export data to other programs (Excel, Word, EndNote, etc). Many universities now have RefWorks. Individual subscriptions available for purchase.

EndNote stays on your computer; new versions must be purchased.

Jim Morris Knower
Last updated August 16, 2007 (VC)
Questions or comments: