Mendeley – a short guide


Mendeley is both a reference management tool and an academic social network. Using Mendeley, you are able to collect, organize and cite (in e.g. Word) your references and also share and publicize your research.

The program is free of charge in its basic version. If you more capacity in storage and functionality you can upgrade your Mendeley account to a premium version.

Mendeley (available on Windows, Mac and Linux) consists of a client program which you download to your computer, and a web-based interface available through a web-browser. Mendeley is also available as an iPhone and iPad App, free for downloading. The screen shots included in the manual are from Mac OS. Some things looks different in Windows, but the functionality is the same.

The name Mendeley is derived from two famous scientist: Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, Russian chemist and inventor, and Gregor Mendel, founder of the science of genetics.


To install Mendeley, visit and create an account. You will use the same login credentials for the desktop and web version. You have the possibility to work in either of these versions and sync your Mendeley library in between.

Two more things should be installed:

  1. The Web Importer, a bookmark that lets you import references and documents from a wide range of academic databases. In addition to this it also allows yout to create a reference for any webpage you are viewing. Visit and drag the "Import To Mendeley" button to your bookmarks toolbar.
  2. The Mendeley Citation Plugin for citing and creating bibliographies in your word processor.

The Citation Plugin is compatible with MS Word and Libre Office.

Building a collection

Import PDF:s

Mendeley is mainly focused on collecting fulltext documents as PDFs. Just drag and drop a PDF document or a folder with PDFs into Mendeley desktop.

You also find the same functionality under the "File" menu.

If Mendeley are not able to extract all necessary metadata for the reference, the PDF will be put in the "Needs Review" folder.

Complete the reference manually or find the correct metadata by searching the title in Google Scholar or PubMed using standard numbers, such as DOI and PMIDs .Click on the magnifying glass symbol next to the standard number to search for metadata.

Import references

Mendeley is not fully capable to collect references in bulk from different databases, but there are some possibilities.

  • The easiest way is often to use the web importer. If you want to import a single reference together with the pdf, you should open the pdf before clicking the web importer.
  • You can also use the web importer from a result list in a database and import several references at the same time. Unfortunately, the pdfs will not be included if you use this method.
  • You can also create export files in standard formats like ris, bibtex and and .xml and import them into Mendeley.

Import a web page

  • When you have found the web page you'll like to import, click on the web importer. Often, all metadata can not be extracted from the web page, and you need to add some information manually.

Import from Endnote

Usually you have the possibility to transfer collections of references from different programs. In this example we demonstrate how to import references from Endnote to Mendeley.

In Endnote:

  1. Choose "Export" under "File".
  2. Choose "XML" in the "Save file as type" list.
  3. Choose "RefMan (RIS) Export" in the "Output Style" list.
  4. Name your library and save it.

In Mendeley desktop:

  1. Choose "Add files" in the "File" menu
  2. Open the file you've saved from EndNote.
  3. The reference will be imported.



In Mendeley desktop you can search within your reference library, including PDFs, using the search box up in the right corner. You also have the possibility to limit your search query.

In Mendeley web you have two search possibilities:

  1. In the upper search box you will access the Mendeley document database, that is all the document made available by the members community at Mendeley. Here you may also find other members and groups.
  2. Search within your own documents in the box below.

Create folders

In Mendeley desktop click on "Create Folder..." and give it an appropiate name. Then just drag and drop your references from "All Documents" to your folder.

In Mendeley web click on the "Create Folder" icon.

To move a selected reference to a folder, just check the box at the left and choose the adequate folder in the list "Add selected documents to...".


Click on "Check for Duplicates" in the "Tools" menu in Mendeley desktop.

You will get a list with suggested duplicates and the possibility to merge them.

Status and tags

Newly added and thus unread documents are marked with a green dot. It will be marked as read when you have open the attached PDF. You can also click on the dot and change it manually.

Choose your favorite documents with the star icon in the left. These documents will automatically be included in the folder "Favorites".

If you want to add information, e.g. "Tags" and "Notes", to more than one reference in a row:

  1. Select the documents you like to add by using "Ctrl" (Windows) or "cmd" (Mac).
  2. Put the pointer in the field you like to edit.

Create and share

Comments in PDF

Mendeley offers several possibilities to collect, organize, annotate and sharing documents as PDF files.

If you want to read an attached PDF, just double-click on the reference. Here, in the PDF reader, you can highlight text in the PDF and add notes.

You are able to share PDF annotations and notes with other group members. Just click on the "Sync" button.

N.B. It is only possible to share full text documents like PDFs in Private Groups.

Share your library

You have access to your Mendeley library everywhere and anytime using a web browser. Always click on the "Sync" button in Mendeley Desktop before you close the program to keep Mendeley Web updated.

By using the Mendeley App you'll get access to your Mendeley library, including all PDFs, in your iPad och iPhone.

You also have the posibility to create your own research profile in Mendeley and upload a CV, your own publications and more.

Create groups

"Groups" are different to "Folders" in several aspects. Groups are used for collaboratation with other Mendeley users, e.g. your colleagues, to create a shared collection of documents. Groups also allow members to put together a list of papers and share notes.

There are three types of groups:

  1. Private Groups: These are invite-only groups whose content (PDFs, annotations, notes, etc.) will only be visible to members of the group.
  2. Public Invite-only Groups: These are groups which are visible to anyone, but only members can contribute to them. The group owner administers the group, but all members can invite other people to it.
  3. Public Open Groups: These are groups anyone may join and contribute to.

In Mendeley desktop click on "Create Group..." and choose a group name, privacy settings, invite members etc.

In Mendeley web click on the icon "Create Group" in the "My Library" tab.


Cite your references in Word

You can use Mendeley to cite references and create bibliographies in MS Word and Libre Office.

Read more about the Citation Plugin.

Click on "Insert Citation" to cite a reference. In the search box appearing you can search for authors name, year, title and more in your Mendeley library. If you like to insert several references at once, just select a reference without clicking "OK" and continue searching for references. When done, click "OK".

Create a bibliography by clicking on "Insert Bibliography" and select your citation style of preference. You can choose among 1 200 output styles.

In the "Choose Citation Style" menu, you can exclude URLs and Date in the bibliography from all citations but web pages.

You might need to click "Refresh" to update the in text-citations and bibliography after you have made changes.

Flexibility and support

Your library is saved in the "cloud" on Mendeley's web server. Don't forget to sync when using the desktop version.

For more information, visit the Mendeley web page, where you'll find Videos & Tutorials and a Q&A.

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