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Citation Management and Writing Tools: Mendeley

A guide describing software to help with citation management, writing, and other parts of the research process.

Mendeley Reference Manager vs. Mendeley Desktop

Mendeley recently released Reference Manager, which can be used instead of Desktop. Which should you choose?

Reference Manager

  • not fully developed yet; the ability to watch folders, organize files, integrate with Zotero is not available
  • notes and highlights can be extracted and organized into notebooks
  • sign in using MIT touchstone
  • good for citation management and annotation


  • includes PDF organization features not available in Reference Manager yet
  • highlights cannot be extracted
  • You need to create an account with an email and password - you cannot use touchstone.
  • not being updated

Get started with Mendeley

‚Äč1. Go to to create an account. Sign in from the MIT network to get extra storage.

Important notes if using Mendeley Desktop:

  • Mendeley recently added an option to create an account using an institutional login. This is currently not working with Mendeley Desktop (but works with Reference Manager). Do not choose this option if you plan to use Desktop.
  • In some cases (such as if you have a pre-existing Elsevier account), you may be forced to create your account using Touchstone. To get around this, use a non-MIT email address. You will still get the extra storage. 
  • If you do create an account with Touchstone, rather than by setting a password, request to reset your password or contact Mendeley tech support using the email option at the bottom of the Mendeley support page. Indicate that you are an institutional subscriber. In either case, it may take several days to receive a response.

2. Download Mendeley Reference Manager or Mendeley Desktop (see above box for more information).

3. Add the Web Importer to your browser.

4. Search for an article in a database. Click the Mendeley button to save a citation from a website.  

5. You will be prompted to sign into your account if you are not already. Mendeley will try to find the bibliographic information from that website. Choose a folder and click Save.

5. Install Mendeley Cite. See the help guide. Can't find your Mendeley Cite add-in? Look under Insert > My Add-ins.


6. See the Mendeley Quick Start Guide for more information. Note that this is for Mendeley Desktop. Mendeley Reference Manager will look similar, but have fewer features.

Mendeley at MIT

With MIT's Mendeley Institutional account you get:

  • 100 GB of personal space in Mendeley (vs. 2 GB with the free, unaffiliated version)
  • 100 GB of shared space (vs. 100 MB with a free account)
  • the ability to create an unlimited number of shared groups with up to 100 members

Access our subscription:

  1. Create a Mendeley account if you do not have one. Do not choose sign in via your institution. This is not working with Mendeley Desktop.
  2. Sign into your account from the MIT network. Use the VPN if you are away from campus. If you do not automatically have access to the premium features, email us and we can manually add you to MIT's account.
  3. You must log into your account using the MIT network at least once during a 12-month period to maintain premium access. You will be notified 10 days before your premium access expires. If you have graduated, you can pay for extra storage or use the storage included with a free account (2 GB).

Integrating Mendeley and Zotero

Mendeley Desktop can automatically import citations and PDFs that are stored in Zotero. This can be a useful set up if you find that Mendeley Desktop does not import well from the databases you regularly search in. This function is not available in Mendeley Reference Manager.