Bibliographic Data (Endnote, Zotero etc.)

Importing bibliographic data with MAXQDA

MAXQDA allows you to import bibliographic data from reference management software such as Endnote, Citavi and Zotero.These programs are used mainly in the scientific fields to manage references and create bibliographies in the objective of supporting the creation of scientific texts. Reference management programs are similar to MAXQDA in that they work with projects and contain collected bibliographical information. The units of the project include Title, Author, etc., and may also include links to websites and related information.

MAXQDA is compatible with all reference management programs that can export their databases in RIS format, which is the standard format for bibliographical data. RIS format biographical reference entries will be subsequently listed one after the other as simple text data. RIS files contain two-letter “tags” which are followed by the relevant information. The most important tags include:

TY – Type of reference, always marks the beginning of a new entry

ID – Unique identification number for each entry

AU – Author

TI – Title

PY – Publication date

ER – Closes entry, always located at end of entry

A detailed description of all RIS format tags can be found on Wikipedia under An example of RIS source data is listed below:

AU  - McLuhan, Marshall
AU  - Fiore, Quentin
TI  - The medium is the message
PY  - 1967
CY  - New York
PB  - Bantam Books
ER  -

Starting the import process

To import RIS data, select Import > Bibliographic data. A dialog window will appear which lists only file types ending in RIS or TXT. Select the desired file and click OK.

Importing and automatically pre-coding data

Data is imported in the following steps:

  • A new document group is created, which is named “RIS_” followed by the name of the imported file.
  • All bibliographic entries in RIS format are added to the new document group as single documents; entries remain in their original order. The imported documents are indicated with a book icon in the Document System.
  • The document name appears as follows: <First Author> - <Year> - <ID>. Blank fields may be marked with a “?" If there are several authors, only the last and first name of the primary author will be included, followed by “et al.”
  • The newly created documents contain the information listed to the right of the tags. The tags themselves will not be imported.
  • A new top-level “RIS” code will be created in the Code System. The top-level code contains all RIS tags that were used in the import as subcodes (e.g. “TY - Type of Reference").
  • When imported, all documents will be automatically pre-coded, during which each text segment will be coded with the corresponding tag code.
  • A display will appear which indicates the progress of the import.
RIS data after being imported into MAXQDA

Adopting selected information as variables

The following variables are automatically adopted when importing bibliographic data for each newly created document:

  • RIS_Type (Type of reference) – String
  • RIS_Author (First author) – String
  • RIS_Title (Title) – String
  • RIS_Reference-ID (Identification number) – Integer
  • RIS_Year (Year of publication) – Integer

These variables are created by the system and cannot be modified by the user.

Adapted variable values for each document

Working with bibliographic data in MAXQDA

After import and automatic pre-coding, a normal text view of the bibliographic data is available in MAXQDA. This means that the data can be searched for, coded, linked, and edited, and that memos can be attached. You can also use all the available visual tools and other functions (e.g. statistics and charts). Automatic pre-coding makes it is possible to isolate specific document types for analysis, e.g. journal articles only or anthology entries only.

Exporting bibliographic data in RIS format

Bibliographic data in RIS format can be exported from MAXQDA, i.e. for import into a reference management program. The export function is located under Project > Export > Bibliographic data as RIS file.

After selecting an export location, all documents in the project that contain bibliographic data (indicated with a book symbol) will be exported as RIS data (UTF-8 coding).

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