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Incorporating RefWorks into your Online Course

We have entered a generation in which technology has enabled students to have 24-hour access to information at their fingertips.  With this ease of access also comes the opportunity for students to be able to quickly grab information from various sources, websites, and databases.  This has caused the task of citation dictation to become difficult and more confusing than ever before.  In most online courses, students will be required at some point to submit a writing assignment in which they are instructed to use a specified style of writing to properly cite their references.  How can instructors more effectively assist their students with this daunting task and make the process of citation dictation effortless?

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RefWorks!  What is it and how does it work?

RefWorks is a “web-based bibliography and database manager that allows you to create your own personal database by importing references from text files or online databases and other various sources.”  In conjunction with the use of RefWorks, students can use databases such as PubMed, CINAHL, Cochrane, and search engines such as Google Scholar to locate and import articles or journals directly to their RefWorks account.  RefWorks also aligns with Write-n-Cite for in-text citations and acts as another method to create a bibliography.

How to Incorporate RefWorks into your online Course

As a best practice, it is encouraged to begin by providing students with information pertaining to the basics of research and citation style guides (ex: Purdue OWL: Online Writing Lab; 6th edition of the Publication Manual of American Psychological Association).  Once students identify and understand the style required by their instructor, they can proceed by accessing their RefWorks account and begin adding articles, journals, and much more to their database.

To help get students started, course instructors should include clear directions and information on how to set up a RefWorks account for new student users and a link to the RefWorks login page for existing student users.  If students have more detailed questions that are specific to their research, use of certain databases, or the import of articles and journals into their RefWorks accounts, instructors can direct students to contact their ASU Subject Librarian or send an email to

Helpful Resources


  1. What Is RefWorks? (n.d.). Retrieved May 29, 2015, from
  2. Welcome to the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab). (n.d.). Retrieved July 9, 2015, from

Co-written by Obiageli Sneed and Jessica Cole