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Citation Managers: Zotero

Tools useful for managing sources and citing in the proper style.

About Zotero

Zotero logo; link to Zotero

Zotero (pronounced zoh-TAIR-oh) is a free, easy-to-use citation manager to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.

Downloading Zotero

Zotero is a standalone program that works together with a browser extension. You should download and install both before getting started. 

1. Go to

2. Click on the red button "Download Now".

3. Download Zotero 5.0 (Mac version is shown; it's also available for Windows and Linux) for the standalone program and the Word plugin. 

4. Install the Chrome Connector (or Firefox or Safari) for the browser extension.

zotero      chrome connector

5. Create a free online account. This creates a space for you on the Zotero server and allows you to add or access your references from any computer through the Zotero interface.

Zotero Plug-Ins

Zotero offers plug-ins for Microsoft Word and OpenOffice/LibreOffice that allow you to automatically generate bibliographies.

What does it look like?

Chrome Connector

The Chrome Connector looks like this (Firefox and Safari Connectors are very similar).

In the upper right corner, just next to the address bar is a Zotero icon. If you click on this while you have a resource open on the browser, clicking the icon will automatically save the record for that resource.  

An example of the Chrome Connector, showing how to add references to Zotero


Standalone Program

The standalone program looks like this.

In the upper left corner of the screen shot is the My Library file, to which you can add folders to organize your references. In this screen shot the cuttlefish folder is selected.

At the top, center, the references in the selected folder (cuttlefish) are displayed. One of these articles is selected in green highlighting.

In the upper right of the screen shot, all the information about the selected reference is displayed - such as item type, title, authors, date, abstract and keywords. You can toggle between viewing info, notes, tages, and related references. 

An example of Zotero standalone, showing some of its features.

Importing and Creating References

There are several ways to add references to your Zotero library.  Make sure you always check the references for accuracy, sometimes Zotero can't understand everything.

To Download a Reference from a Library Catalog

  1. Find your item in the catalog.
  2. At the far right of the url bar is an icon that will indicate what kind of reference you have (book, movie, etc.).
  3. Click on that icon and the reference will be added to Zotero.
  4. Drag your reference into a folder.

To Download a Reference from a Database

  1. Open up the record for the article you want (usually clicking on the title of the article).
  2. Again in the url bar far right, is an icon that will indicate what kind of reference you have (book, movie, etc.).
  3. Click on that icon and the reference will be added to Zotero.
  4. Notice that you will also import the abstract and a link to any full text, if attached.
  5. Drag the record into a folder.

To Download a Website Reference

  1. Bring up the website that you wish to add to your references.
  2. This time there is no icon in the url bar.
  3. Open the Zotero window and click on the button with a paper and a plus. Paper plus icon
  4. Your website will be added to Zotero.
  5. Drag the record into a folder.

To Enter Bibliographic Details

  1. Click on the Plus (+) button on the Zotero bar.
  2. Select the type of document you have.
  3. Fill out the bibliographic details.
  4. Drag the record to your collection folder.

Creating a Bibliography

To create a bibliography from your sources

  1. Go to the Gear Icon
  2. Preferences
  3. Export
  4. Select the Default Output Format. If you are just doing a bibliography select "with bibliography" if applicable.
  5. Once you have set this, this is the default, unless you change the setting
  6. Open a word processing document (like Microsoft Word or Google Docs)
  7. Drag your reference to your word document.
  8. Double check the format (spaces, spellings, periods). You will have to do the hanging indents, etc. and alphabetize your bibliographic list

Syncing Data

So that your data is available from any machine, and saved on Zotero's server (this way you don't have to carry your computer around) you need to sync or save your information. To do so, you must have created an account at Zotero (free) and be logged into that account.

  1. Make sure you have created an account. You will need to remember your login and password
  2. Under the Gear Icon select Preferences
  3. Choose Sync
  4. Fill in user name and password (sometimes it may already be filled in)
  5. Click Sync automatically
  6. Close the window
  7. In the Zotero control bar the circular arrow is the sync button.

Note Cards

Zotero allows you to create note cards, just like you were writing and organizing the old fashioned paper cards. Before you create notes for your texts, it is helpful to think about the categories you might have in your research. Each note card will have a title -- the first few words you put on the card. By thinking in categories (or tags) you can quickly identify appropriate points. Zotero also has a search feature which will allow you to search through the full text of your note cards.

To create a notecard:

  1. Highlight the title of the work which you want to add your note card to
  2. Under the yellow notecard icon, choose Add Child Note (a child note is associated with the parent work that you have highlighted)
  3. You may see other notes already under the title of the work that you are about to add a note. These are "notes" from the original digital bibliographic record. However, you will also see a blank line and off to the right is a space to record your notes, using html. This allows you to put in quotes, external links, and other formatting that will help you with your research. You can open this up in a separate window if you want a larger space.
  4. You may add as much text as you like and as many notecards to a source as you wish. Its better to not have all of your notes on one card, but break the information up into bits