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Mendeley: Build Your Library

Build your Database of Citations & PDFs

  • Start with PDFs you already have.
    You can add several files of PDFs, include an entire folder of PDFs, or use drag-and-drop to add them PDFs to your library.  Mendeley will extract the document details, keywords and cited references and use.Cross-Ref DOIs, arXiv IDs and PubMed information to automatically fill in details.

  • Pull in information from a database.
    Mendeley can import information in BibTeX, RIS, EndNote XML, or even synch with Zotero.  Some databases can also communicate with the "Save to Mendeley" web importer tool (PubMed is one).

  • Use the "Save to Mendeley" web importer tool.
    Save to Mendeley captures information from web pages, articles from publisher's web sites, or capture CDC report information for your new collection of citations.


Organizing and searching your library is easy with the filters for author, journal, and keywords.  You can even assign your own tags in addition to creating folders.

Import PDFs to Create a Reference in Mendeley

If you already have a collection of PDFs, then use one of the easiest methods to create a reference in Mendeley, Import PDF.  If you like this workflow, then from the Desktop version also use the Watched Folder feature to continue creating records from PDFs you save.

PDFs can be imported from either the web or the desktop versions.  The desktop version has two methods. 

From the Web:   From the Desktop:  Two Ways to Accomplish the Task

Add >> Import Document

1)  Drag & Drop

2)  File >> Add Files (or Folder)

Note 1:  Creating records from PDFs are vastly impacted by how well the PDF was created and if there is data that can be extracted.  Not all PDFs will result in a good record and Mendeley will alert you to check that the information was imported correctly. 

Note 2:  Already have a record in the library?  Simply drag the file to your desktop library and Mendeley will attach it to the correct record. 

Use the Web Importer Tool, Save to Mendeley Web 

The easiest way to get items into your library is via the Save to Mendeley tool.  If you are in a database, it will recognize that there is more than one citation to grab and will display a list.  If you are on a simple web page, it will give you a citation just for that one page.  If you are viewing a PDF in your browser, often, it can capture the details and attach the PDF.  A couple of reminders:

  • It will save it to your web library, not the desktop
  • You can specify a folder where the item(s) will go.
  • Capture all (use the checkbox by All) or select the one or two or ... however many needed from the list - use the checkbox by each item.


Here is an example from PubMed:  

  • After running your search, use the Save to Mendeley tool to capture the articles you want.  Optional action:  put the ones you want on the clipboard then import all of them at once.


  • Then from the Mendeley list, select the citations you want to include in your library.  You can also specify if you want it to go to a particulary folder - in this case, one called "Practice." 


  • Last step - click Save.  

Import from a Database

Most databases will not have a handy "import to Mendeley" tool, but they may provide a file in the generic RIS format.  Your first choice for importing should be the Save to Mendeley bookmarlet tool.  It is the most efficient way to get the information from a database into Mendeley, but the following steps may be necessary if you encounter a database that does not play nicely with that tool.

Each database will behave differently, but the general steps are:

  1. Identify the citations you want to export.  
  2. Go to the export tool.
  3. Export the citations in RIS format.
  4. Import the citations into your library.

Let's use JSTOR as an example.  It is one that has trouble with the Save to Mendeley tool, so you need to pull the information out with the databases's export tool.  

  1. Use the check boxes to select the citations you want.
  2. Once the citations are selected, use the Export Selected Citations tab to start the process.  Be sure to select the RIS format that is compatible for multiple citation tools and do not select one that is specific for just one tool, e.g., Refworks.  (Screenshot of this Export process is to the right.)

    Browsers act differently with downloaded files, so the following are the general steps.  This import option is only available with the desktop version.  The web version is unable to translate this file.

  3. If the process does not start automatically, go to Mendeley desktop and use the File >> Import option and select RIS - Research Information Systems (*.ris)  this is that generic file type mentioned previously
    • Navigate to where your citations.ris  file is located - most likely the downloads folder and the file is named citations.ris and select & open it.
  4. You should now have all of the citations in your library.

Note:  For anything other than a journal, the information may not have imported fully, so be sure to check that all pertinent fields are filled out.

Create a New Record by Typing in All the Details

Cannot find your item on a webpage or in database?  You may need to enter the details by hand.  New items can be added from either the desktop or web version.

Desktop Web

Add files Icon >> Add Entry Manually

From here, enter the information you have - watch out for typos and know enough about your citation style to enter all the information necessary.

Also, be sure to set the type of item this is as that affects the information that will be pulled into the bibliography.  

When finished, click Save.

Add >> New Manual Entry

From here, enter the information you have.  Be sure to check for typos as they will also appear in your bibliography if not corrected.  Also, know enough about your citation style to enter all the necessary information.

Don't forget to set the type of item as this can affect the information that appears in your bibliography. 

When finished, click Save.