Top tips

Save PDFs in reference management software

When storing documents on your laptop use a consistent filing system, e.g. author_year

Take time to learn about the reference management software you decide to use

Storing PDF and online articles

As you do more reading and research for your course it will become harder to keep track of your articles. Using a good reference management system is a start, but you need to store the paper and online documents that you find.


If you like to read articles in print you will start to build up a collection of print documents. Try to organise these in one place, such as in a storage box, or box file. Keeping a pile on your bedroom floor seems like a good idea in your first year, but by the time you reach your final year, and have possibly moved a few times, that pile won’t be very accessible.

The majority of your documents will probbaly be electronic. You still need to organise them and there are a number of good ways of doing this:

  • Reference management software (we recommend RefWorks) will allow you to save PDF documents with the bibliographic information you enter
  • Reference management software can also save the SFX link to articles, so that you don’t need to save a separate copy of an article, but just export information to the software (RefWorks does this automatically)
  • If you save copies on your desktop, keep them organised in folders relating to subject, and label the filenames sensibly (author and year might be a good start)
  • Save documents to a memory stick or your personal hard drive

It is a very good idea to get into the habit of organising the documents you read. Whatever system you use needs to make sense to you, but don’t make it too complicated. If you’re in your 4th year, writing a final year project, you don’t want to waste time trying to find documents from your first year.

Familiarising yourself with reference management software and its features can help to save you time. Checking your references as you add them will help you to be consistent. Reference management software is developing all the time and includes many features that will help you to organise and access information. For example, you could use the notes field in RefWorks to record if a reference to a book is a book from the library, or a copy you borrowed from a friend. Or you can organise your references in to folders which will help you to locate them more easily. You will also find that you can access your references online.

When it comes to writing your assignment, keeping your information well organised can really help you and using reference management software can save you time and help you cite and reference consistently.