References from reference management tools

If you conduct a literature review using a reference management tool such as EndNote, Zotero, RefWorks or Mendeley, you can import the references into NVivo. Export to RIS or XML file format to import into NVivo.

If you start by collecting your bibliographical data in NVivo, when you are ready to write up your findings, you can export this data to a reference management tool. NVivo can export to RIS or TXT file format.

Import references

  1. On the Import tab, in the Bibliography group, choose an option.
  2. Locate and select the file you want to import, and then click Open.
  3. Review the default import options and make any required changes.
  4. (Optional) Click Advanced to modify your import options for specific references.
  5. Click Import.


  • The file description can only store 512 characters. If the abstract is important to you, you should select to create memos from abstract, keywords and notes, so that the full abstract is imported into a memo. Storing the abstract in a memo is also a good idea, if you want to code and query the text of the abstract.
  • If you want to import file attachments and figures from EndNote, make sure the EndNote reference library is available on your computer (or on a network drive), so that NVivo can extract the files and figures.
  • Files attached using the RefWorks 'attachment feature' (available with institutional licenses only) cannot be exported from RefWorks via the RIS file, so they cannot be imported into NVivo.
  • References without file attachments, URLs or figures are imported into NVivo as external files. References with associated files can be imported as internal files.


Export references

  1. In Navigation View, under Data, click File Classifications.
  2. Select one or more file classifications to export.
  3. On the Share tab, in the Export group, click Export Bibliography, and then choose an option.
  4. (Optional) Change the name or location of the exported file.
  5. Click Save.

If you are exporting a large amount of classifying data, the export may take a few minutes. You can monitor the progress of your export in the Status bar at the bottom of the NVivo window.


  • You can only export classifications that have a bibliographical ID (created by adding one of the predefined bibliographical classifications to your project).  The bibliographical ID is displayed in the classification properties. To view the properties, select the classification, and then click the Properties image, in the Item group, in the Home tab.
  • Custom attributes are ignored—only values stored in attributes with a Bibliographical ID can be exported.
  • When you import the XML file into EndNote, select 'EndNote generated XML' in the import options.
  • When you import the RIS file into RefWorks, select 'RIS Format' as the import format.
  • If you import reference data into NVivo and then export it back to a reference management tool, only the data that could be imported into NVivo is available to be exported back to the reference management tool. For example: when you import references into NVivo, only one file attachment per reference can be imported, and any reference information stored in attribute values is truncated when it exceeds 255 characters.