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EndNote desktop guide: Populating your library


In this section we will look at populating your EndNote library with refrences. The first thing to note is that when you populate you library with references, you are not populating it with full text documents; that is a second step in the process of building your library which you can read about later.

Method 1: Import text file (the standard method)

This is the default method for importing references into EndNote. It is not as quick as exporting directly (see Method 4) but it is very reliable. The instructions below assume you know how to undertake a search in your database/s of choice and select references for export.

Stage 1

  1. Open a database or a tool that searches multiple databases e.g. Medline/EBSCOhost
  2. Undertake a search and identify the results that you want to export
  3. Save the references as a single file to your computer (not into EndNote, just onto the desktop for example). Use a recognised file format [if possible choose the .ris option, which is very common, but some databases export in a format specific to them e.g. .nbib in PubMed]

Stage 2

  1. Open your EndNote library
  2. Select the import option, File > Import > File
  3. Select the file you want to import
  4. Choose the appropriate Import option (based on the format in which you saved the file; you might need to select 'other filters' if the one you are looking for is not already displayed). [Note: this can correspond with the database you saved the references from e.g. if you save as .ris file, choose the Reference Manager RIS import option, but if you save as a .nbib file from PubMed, select PubMed as the import filter]. If you cannot see the filter, it might be necessary to import it from Clarivate’s support pages.
  5. Select ‘Import’

Screenshot of import file dialog box

Method 2: Online search

This feature is to be used when you know the reference you would like to import. It is not used for conducting your literature search as it does not have sufficient functionality and is used mostly with library catalogues (but you can also use it to pull in a record from PubMed). 

In the Online Search area,

  1. Select the shortcut to the data source you want to search


  1. or use 'more...' to locate the source you wish so search. The Bournemouth University library catalogue is called 'BournemouthU.'

Select online search source


  1. Enter your search terms in the relevant search boxes (top centre pane) and click 'Search'

Online search box

  1. From the results panel, select the references you want to keep
  2. Click the + button to move them permanently to what is termed your local library

Select results to keep

  1. Reference/s will be added as extras to 'unfiled' and also 'recently added', in addition to All references
  2. To see a true reflection of what you now have in 'All References' ignore the number until you have clicked on an unused source subset in Online Search. This will regenerate the numbers and provide an accurate number for All References

Numbers of results

The references from your online search that you have not selected to copy to your Local Library, will disappear once EndNote has been shut down as they are only temporary.

Method 3: Manual entry

This method of reference creation is used for items which do not appear in a catalogue that can be harvested. It is also used quite often for web pages.

  1. Click on the ‘New reference’ icon

New reference icon

  1. Select the correct reference type, e.g. Webpage
  2. Enter the necessary reference details, i.e. what you would need to appear in a reference [refer to the BU Harvard guide (or publisher guidelines) for which fields will be relevant for your reference type]
  3. Click Save when you have finished filling in the details

Note that the data for authors needs to be added in a particular way or EndNote cannot output the data in the correct style:

  • Enter the author's name: Last name, First name
  • Enter author's name in full
  • Leave the author field blank if unknown
  • Enter multiple authors on separate lines
  • Enter a comma after corporate authors e.g. Nursing Midwifery Council,

Method 4: Direct export (the quickest but most problematic method)

This is the quickest method for getting references into your library, but it is very browser dependent. If you are having problems, please contact us.

  1. Open a database or a tool that searches multiple databases e.g. Medline/EBSCOhost
  2. Undertake a search and identify the results that you want to export.
  3. Using the database's export function, select the appropriate option e.g. Direct Export to EndNote

How the files are dealt with at this point will depend on your browser set up and you can modify this to some extent. Possible variations include:

  • If using Chrome or Edge, exporting a set of references directly from a database will result in a small box appearing in the bottom left of your browser window. Click on this and it will unpack the references into your open EndNote desktop library
  • If using Firefox, a dialogue box will appear asking if you want to open with ResearchSoft Direct Export Helper or save. If you open with ResearchSoft Direct Export Helper it should unpack the references into your open EndNote library

If the references do not unpack automatically after installing EndNote (desktop version) or Cite While you Write (Word add-in) on your machine, and you only have the option to save a file of references locally, for import to your library, you can install it from here .

Method 5: Capture reference from web page

The capture reference tool allows you to capture reference details from a  web page e.g. a BBC news story. To install the tool in your browser, log in to EndNote online (you will need an account) and go to the Downloads tab. Drag and drop the grey Capture Reference button to your browser toolbar. To use,

  1. Click on the button when in the page you wish to capture
  2. Use the radio button to select EndNote (desktop)
  3. Edit the metadata at that stage if you wish to
  4. Click 'Save To' to save the reference to your library

Method 6: Import locally saved PDFs

If you already have PDFs stored locally in your computer, you can import these into your library and hopefully the metadata (reference details) also. You will know if the metadata has been imported because fields, Title, Author etc. will be filled in correctly. If the import has only pulled in the PDF, the metadata will be jumbled up or non-existant. The success of importing the metadata is simply down to how the PDF was created. To import PDFs,

  1. Identify where your PDFs have been stored
  2. In EndNote, select File > Import > Folder
  3. Browse to the folder and if it has subfolders with PDFs you want to import, make sure the check box is ticked
  4. Click import

If the PDF is imported but not the metadata, you have two options;

  1. Delete the entry and import the metadata from a database/catalogue (and then attach the PDF singularly to the entry)
  2. Fill in the metadata manually (this method will take longer)

Method 7: Synchronise with an online library

If you already have an EndNote online account, and want to bring those references into a desktop library, you can do so by synchronising your desktop and online libraries. Have a look at our synchronising instructions for more information.

Remember this is a two way sync which will push references both ways, so if you only want to bring the references into your desktop library, export the references from your online library as a .ris file and then import this .ris file into your desktop library.