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Reference management (RefWorks & Mendeley): Citation styles

Citation styles

What your citations and references look like is determined by a reference system. Both RefWorks and Mendeley contain hundreds of systems that you can choose from, such as Harvard, APA, MLA and Oxford. Journal specific systems are also available.

Which reference system should I use?
Consult your supervisor to find out which system is preferred in your area of academia. Usually it will be well-known system, but possibly with some minor (local) variations. Simply edit the closest system, if you can't find system that fully meets your needs by default.

If I'm free to do whatever I want?
Harvard and APA are distinguished reference systems where the citation is embedded in the body text within parantheses (so-called parenthetical referencing or author-date). Oxford is a common footnote system whereas Vancouver is a widely used author-number system. Some systems, e.g. Chicago, is available in different versions accommodating different style needs.

RefWorks: Citation Style Editor

RefWorks divides a reference system into three main parts. The three parts corresponds to where in the text the reference appears:

  • Bibliography
  • Citations (i.e. in-text)
  • Footnotes


A reference will subsequently be treated differently depending on if it's inserted as an in-text citation or a footnote and when part of the bibliography. Furthermore, references come in various types, such as books, journal articles, which may have individual settings. The bibliography usually includes some settings for different reference types whereas in-text citations often are formatted in the same way by an all-encompassing generic reference type.

E.g. APA 6th has twenty settings for different reference types in its bibliography but only one for in-text citations and none for foot notes (the system is hence not suitable for foot notes).

RefWorks: Edit a citation style

1. Go to Citation Style Editor to edit a citation style or if you need more styles in Write-N-Cite.

2. Look up and choose the system that is closest to what you need. Choose "Save a copy".

The system is now also made available in Write-N-Cite (click on "Sync My Database" in Word).

3. Under Bibliography, edit settings that apply to the bibliography. Pay attention to different reference types. Sometimes you need to repeat your changes for multiple reference types in order to get the outcome you need. The picture shows changes made to the author name for the reference type Book.

4. Citations. Here you make changes that apply to citations that appear in-text. Most citation styles only use one reference type (generic) which, then, applies to all citations made in-text. The picture shows changes made to how citations should be formatted when the reference has three or more authors.

5. Footnotes. Here you make changes to citations that appear as footnotes on the bottom of each page. Please note that you need to use a citation style that supports footnotes, such as Oxford/OSCOLA styles.

Mendeley: Citation Style Language (CSL) Editor

In Mendeley, a citation style consists of two main parts:

  • Bibliography
  • Inline Citations (in-text citations and footnotes)


Citation styles control the way in which your references appear in a document you author using the Mendeley Cite-O-Matic citing tool. The Citation Style Language (CSL) editor allows you to modify a citation style to meet your own requirements.

Although the CSL Editor provides an intuitive interface, citation styles are complicated. As such, the CSL Editor should be regarded as one of the more advanced aspects of using Mendeley. Check out the illustrative Mendeley CSL Editor guide, it's good!

Visual Citation Style Editor can be reached via Mendeley Desktop or by going straight to the editing site.


Mendeley: Edit a citation style

1. In Mendeley Desktop, go to View Citation Style More Styles... and choose Get More Styles to view all citation styles. Right-click on the citation style you'd like to edit and choose "Edit Style". You're transferred to Visual Citation Style Editor.

2. To change the appearance of e.g. author names, click on the names shown in the examples in the middle of the screen. Make your changes below in the edit window. The example is updated accordingly.

The "structure" of the citation style is visible on the lefthand side. This is where you delete or add new elements to the citation style. When deleting elements, be sure the structure remains logical. Check the Mendeley guide for further instructions.

3. Click on Save Save Style when you're done.

Last piece of advice!

  • Be sure to check that you're making your edits at the right place. Remember that some elements (such as the title of a reference) can be used in multiple locations within the style. This means that when you're making changes to them, you have to repeat the change on multiple reference types.