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Migrating from RefWorks to Zotero

Zotero is a free Firefox, Chrome, and Safari extension that helps you collect, manage, and cite your research sources.

The BC Libraries have discontinued support for RefWorks. All current users of New RefWorks and Legacy RefWorks will need to move their references to another reference manager. Unfortunately, only references can be migrated. PDFs and any other attachments will not automatically transfer and will need to be reattached separately. We recommend migrating to Zotero. 

If you're ready to switch to Zotero, the migration is a two step process.

  1. Export your references from RefWorks.
  2. Import your references into Zotero.

Exporting from RefWorks

1. From your RefWorks account, click Share in the top menu bar.

refworks main page


2. Select Export References.

refworks menu export references


3. Choose to export all references in the document and export in BibTeX format.

  • Unfortunately, batch export does not preserve your folder structure, so if you want to preserve your folders from RefWorks, you will need to export and import one folder at a time.

4. Click Export and choose to save the file. Your exports will download and will be placed in your downloads folder or a location you choose.

Importing to Zotero

You must first Download and install Zotero from

1. Open your new citation manager (in this case, Zotero) and go to File > Import. A dialogue box will come up and ask where you want to import from. Select A file (which should be the only option).


2. Select Next and you will be brought to your downloads folder. Select the correct document (it will be labeled export.bib) and click Open.


3. Follow the dialogue box and your imported citations will be placed in a new folder called “export.” From there, you can rename and manipulate your imported documents any way you like. Folder names do not carry over from RefWorks, so you’ll need to rename your folders once they are in Zotero.

For help with Zotero, see our BC Zotero guide.

Special Cases

Problem: I already have a paper with RefWorks citations, can I convert them to Zotero ones with having to change them all manually?


  1. Export/import of Refworks data into Zotero

  2. Run Refworks bibliography on work in progress

  3. Add the items in the bibliography to an All Cited Items folder in Zotero

  4. Delete the Refworks bibliography of citations past

  5. Use Zotero to create citations going forward

  6. Run the Zotero bibliography of citations future

  7. Add the Zotero items to the All Cited Items folder

  8. Delete the (partial) Zotero bibliography

  9. Create a bibliography from the All Cited Items folder


Problem: I need to export from the Word Reference Manager to Zotero

Solution: Follow the instructions for "Citations inserted using Microsoft Word's built-in citation feature"