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Mendeley is a free citation and research manager similar to Endnote. This page offers information that will help you create and build a reference library and use Mendeley to add properly formatted references to your papers.

Installation and Preferences

First, you're going to need to download Mendeley from In order to download the application, you will have to create an account with Mendeley. For the purposes of this guide, I will be using the Windows client, but the Mac client ought to operate similarly.

After installation, you will need to sign in with the email address and password that you used to an account with Mendeley. Once the application has loaded, you want to go ahead and set up the options by clicking on Tools then selecting options. The options window will provide you with many useful features.

Mendeley options

On the general tab, you will be able to see how much of your personal and shared web space that you are using. Mendeley provides you with 2GB of personal web space, which translates to between 2,000 to 8,300 PDFs, depending on the size of the PDF. Additional space or group size can be purchased from Mendeley, but unfortunately that option is rather expensive, for example increasing group size to 5 collaborators costs $49 per month as of June 2013. Shared web space is the space that you use in the groups that you own. With groups, you can share PDFs, annotations or notes to PDFs to the other users that you've invited to the group. If your group is going to be no longer than 3 users, then Mendeley is an excellent tool for collaboration. To see more information on groups see our section on groups.

Mendeley options, watched folders tab

The other neat option available with Mendeley is that you can set it to watch either a folder or a set of folders. When Mendeley watches a folder, it scans the folder to see if you have added a new PDF to it and will automatically import it to your library.  For example in the screenshot, I've set it to scan the folder HSL-pdfs. If I move a PDF into that directory, Mendeley will add the reference to my library.

You may want to set it to scan your downloads folder for the web browser that you are using. When you are browsing our journals or databases, you can download the PDF of the article that you're interested in and Mendeley will add it to your library! Different browsers and different operation systems may have different default settings for what the default downloads folder is located at. If you're confused by where this is located at, a quick Google search ought to return the answer, e.g. here is the Google search for Safari download folder mac. Similar searches ought to find the information you need so that you can set up Mendeley to watch your downloads folder.

You can also access your library on Mendeley's website, which is helpful if you are using another computer and do not want to or can not install Mendeley on it. If you go to the My Library section on you will be able to access your library.

Introducing the Mendeley main window

The main Mendeley Window

The main Mendeley window

As you can see from the notes added, Mendeley has a variety of useful features. In the My Library section, you can see what documents that you've recently added in the Recently Added section. You can be altered when Mendeley was unable to find citation information for the document in the Needs Review section. You can click on the Create Folder and Create Group sections to create folders in your personal library and groups for you to collaborate. Additionally on the right side of the window, there are Details and Notes sections. The Details section displays the full citation information for the document and the Notes section is where you can add notes to the document as you read the document.

Writing and Citing

Installing Microsoft Word Plugin with Mendeley

You also want to set up the Microsoft Word plugin so that you can using Mendeley to automatically insert and format citations while writing in addition to inserting a formatted bibliography. Under the Tools tab in Mendeley select the Install the MS Word Plugin option. You will have to close out any Microsoft Office applications that you have running in order to install the plugin. Once they are closed, Mendeley will quickly install the plugin. It will also show you a brief introduction in how to access this functionality in Microsoft Word. For further explanation on how to fully use this plugin, see our section on writing and citing for a further explanation of how to use Mendeley's capability to add formatted citations to your manuscripts.

Successful Word Plugin installation in Mendeley