Library Research Skills Tutorial About the tutorial
Referencing & Bibliography

Downloading records

Searching external sources using bibliographic software

Some types of bibliographic software can recognise the formatting used by other databases, such as a library catalogue or the IBSS. Many now include the option to search these online databases from within the bibliographic software programme, in the same way that the software allows searching of its own databases. The search results are loaded directly into a reference database.

If you are going to use this option you need to be aware that some of the databases that it can link to will be subscription databases. In some cases the database that the software links to may be provided free by your library from another web location. A member of library staff will be able to advise on which databases you should have access to.

Exporting records from an external source

Some online databases provide the option to save selected records in a format compatible with some types of bibliographic software. This is usually referred to as a 'tagged' or 'delimited' format. For example:

  • SASCAT (the library catalogue of he School of Advanced Study, University of London) provides the option to save records for loading into EndNote.
  • The IBSS has an option to save records in a format recognised by several types of bibliographic software.

You can use this function to load records directly into your reference database, without having to type each one in yourself.

More detail on tagged and delimited files is available. Refer to this if you are having difficulty in exporting records into your database, or if you would like more information on saving your database for use in another program (eg Excel).

See the using electronic resources section of this tutorial for further help on searching online databases and retrieving records.

Checking downloaded records

When adding records downloaded from other sources into your own reference database you should remember that the information originally entered for each record may be in a slightly different format to the one you are using. Therefore you will need to check, for example, that the arrangement of author names, and use of capitalisation within titles, is consistent with your own chosen style.


You will now have a good understanding of how a bibliographic database is constructed. You have seen how to enter data into fields in a consistent manner which will enable your software to format each record according to the style that you require. You have also seen how some bibliographic software can be used to download records from online databases. Information is also available about how to trouble-shoot the most common causes of problems in downloading data between databases.

The following page will revise some of the topics encountered so far and examine what you need to consider when using bibliographic software in your research.

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