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Research Guides

What Mendeley Does

Mendeley is a web application that helps you collect, manage, and cite research sources. It's easy to use, accessible within your web browser and/or on your desktop, and best of all it's free. Mendeley allows you to organize, annotate, and highlight PDFs, add to your citations, organize them into collections for different projects, and create bibliographies using Word or OpenOffice. It is available to use in any web browser and surprisingly powerful. Mendeley also has a downloadable desktop application for your Mendeley library.

To start using Mendeley, follow these steps:

  1. Open your favorite web browser and go to Click "Make an Account" to make an Elsevier account. It's important to note that you should NOT click "Sign in via your institution". Simply use your preferred email address to make an account. 
  2. Download the Mendeley Reference Manager for Desktop from the Mendeley homepage by clicking on the download button in the top right-hand corner. 
  3. Then install the Mendeley browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. This allows you to save references to your Mendeley library with one click.
  4. You can also integrate Mendeley with Microsoft Word by downloading the Mendeley Cite plugin. For more information, see Mendeley: Creating Bibliographies While Writing

Mendeley Desktop vs. Mendeley Reference Manager

You may notice on Mendeley's downloads page that there are two seemingly similar desktop programs: Mendeley Desktop and Mendeley Reference Manager. In 2020, Mendeley announced that they were transferring Mendeley Web Libraries to their new Reference Manager, which would also have a downloadable desktop version. While you can still download and use Mendeley Desktop (the old version), we recommend that you download and use Mendeley Reference Manager, since it is more up-to-date and integrates easily with the web version.

The main differences between Mendeley Desktop and Mendeley Reference Manager are:

  • The Reference Manager has a sleeker, newer look. The look and functionality is the same across both the web and desktop versions.
  • The Reference Manager is entirely cloud-based, with no options for local storage.
  • Updates to Mendeley's PDF reader (now called "Notebook") so you can read and annotate multiple PDFs at a time.
  • In the old Mendeley Desktop, you were able to export your PDFs with annotations. The new Notebook feature does not allow this.

If you have been using Mendeley Desktop, it is still fully functional and available for download

We are in the process of updating our guides for this change, and it appears Mendeley is as well. Many of the screenshots and videos in our guides (as well as Mendeley's) still feature images and step-by-step instructions for Mendeley Desktop. If you have any questions or are having difficulty setting up Mendeley Reference Manager, feel free to reach out and schedule an appointment with a Graduate Student Specialist

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