Technology How To

Using Zotero for Reference Management

Wednesday, April 2, 2008 4:56 pm

What is Zotero?
Zotero is a free Firefox add-on that gathers, manages, and can create a bibliography of sources. Zotero allows you to attach PDFs, notes and images to your citations, organize them into collections for different projects, and create bibliographies using MS Word. Most users find it easier to use than EndNote. Like all Firefox plugins, Zotero automatically updates itself periodically to work with new online sources and new bibliographic styles.Zotero Stand- alone is also an available option. With the stand- alone version, you can browse your Zotero library without being connected to the internet. If Firefox isn’t your browser of choice, there are also plug-ins available for Google Chrome and Safari.

Getting Zotero within the firefox browser (scroll down to getting Zotero-Standalone, if you would prefer that version)

1. Go to

2. Click the red “Download” button

3. Click “Zotero for firefox” and follow the instructions.

4. Restart the Firefox web browser. (You’ll see a small Zotero button at the bottom of your Firefox window.)

Note: If you see the message “Firefox prevented this site from asking you to install software on your computer,” click “Edit Options,” then “Allow” and “Close.”Follow steps 1-3 again to download and install Zotero.

To find where Zotero stores their files on your hard drive, click the Zotero button in the bottom-right hand corner of your Firefox window, select the Actions tab>Preferences>Advanced

From here you can either leave “Use Firefox profile directory” checked, or check the “Custom” box and then click the “Choose” button in order to find your own location to store the files.

Getting the Microsoft Word Citation Plugin
Download and install the Microsoft Word citation plugin to facilitate citing items from a Zotero library in a paper.

1. The plugin can be found by clicking the link to:
Add a plugin for Word or Libreoffice
Click theInstallation link and follow the instructions for your respective PC

Steps for adding and using the Zotero plugin.

1. Save the file to your desktop (should take just a few seconds).
2. Open the file and click through the installation.
3. Once it is finished you can delete the file from your desktop.


Getting Zotero- Standalone

1. Go to

2. Click on the red “Download now” button

3. Select “Zotero for windows” under the Zotero Standalone option

4. Follow the instructions

**Note**: Make sure microsoft word is closed during installation. Otherwise the word processor plug-in will not install correctly.

5. Next, add a browser extension, by clicking on wither the chrome, safari, or firefox button, depending on your browser of choice.

Starting Zotero

Before opening Zotero for the first time, in the top-right corner of the Zotero homepage, click the Register link. Here you can create a Zotero account which will allow you to store references on the Zotero cloud. As a result, you will be able to access your references from any computer with internet access. This also serves as a way to back up your references, as they will be safe on the Zotero website.

Now that you are registered, click on the Zotero button at the bottom of a Firefox browser window, if you are using the plug-in version. This will open a Zotero window in the bottom half of the browser window. If you are using the standalone version, click on the Zotero symbol on your Windows taskbar, on the bottom of your desktop (the bar that has word, excel, and powerpoint symbols, etc.)

Collecting References

From the ZSR Library Catalog

From Your Search Results Lists
Go to the library catalog at and conduct your search. From your list of results page you can save all titles on each page by simply clicking the folder icon next to the URL in your web browser.
When you click it a quick list of the titles on the page will pop up and you can choose the titles you want to download into Zotero or just select all titles.

When you click OK your titles will be downloaded into Zotero. To access them, just click the Zotero icon at the bottom of your browser. You may need to alter author formats, title, capitalization and other items in the record to be sure it works properly with the citation output manager.

From an individual record in the catalog:
You can bring in titles from our catalog one record at a time. From the catalog record click the blue book icon at the end of the URL. This will add just that single title into Zotero.

Library Databases
Many of our Library databases including Ebsco, Proquest, Web of Science, JSTOR and many others allow you to add items to Zotero directly from your results list.

After you conduct a search and are on a results page you will see the yellow folder icon after the URL. If you click on it you will be given the option to add all the titles on the page or select the ones you want. After you check off the boxes and click OK your titles will be added to Zotero. Again, you may need to double-check formats, etc. on individual records to be sure they are accurate.

Web Sites
There are some web sites where you can get articles directly into Zotero. When on an article from, for example, you will see a small newspaper icon after your URL and if you click that – the article will be downloaded into Zotero. Other sites where this is possible include:,, and

On pages where you do not see the icon in the URL bar, you can click the Create New Item from Page icon in Zotero to get a quick start on adding that page to Zotero. You may then need to edit the Zotero record to add all of the relevant information.

**Note** On the standalone option this doesn’t exist. You will need to create a new entry by clicking the green + symbol, selecting “Web Page”, and adding in all relevant information.

Creating a Bibliography from Selected Items

To export selected items in Zotero to a bibliography in MS Word:

1. Click on the items you want to export.

2. Hold the ctrl key to select multiple items.

3. Choose Create Bibliography from Selected Items

a. Select the desired citation style.

b. Select Save as RTF to create an MS Word file (or Save to Clipboard to paste
in an existing document.)

4. In the window that opens, select Save on Desktop and name the file.

Creating a Bibliography from a Collection

To export a collection in Zotero to bibliography in MS Word:

1. Right click on the collection you want to export.

2. Hold the ctrl key to select multiple items.

3. Choose Create Bibliography from Collection

a. Select the desired citation style.

b. Select Save as RTF to create an MS Word file (or Save to Clipboard to paste
in an existing document.)

4. In the window that opens, select Save on Desktop. The file will be named after the collection, or you can give the file a new name.

Zotero Groups
Zotero groups enables users with Zotero accounts to share reference libraries with other users. Group libraries show up under the libraries pane on the left hand side of your Zotero screen. When using groups, every citation and digital object (e.g. pdf, web-page snapshot) that is added to this library is synchronized to other users. You must be using version 2.0 of Zotero or greater in order to use groups.

You can watch the progress of the synchronization in the upper right hand side of the Zotero application.

According to the Zotero website, each user currently gets 100MB of storage.

To get set-up with Zotero groups you need to configure your already created account for file synchronization. After this, you will be able to manage groups either through Zotero or through the Zotero groups website

Create your Zotero account and set your preferences

  • Launch Zotero – click the Actions tab and scroll down to Preferences
  • Enter your account in settings under the sync tab. While you are there check off the three boxes for “sync automatically,” “sync attachment files in my library (choose Zotero),” and “sync attachment files in group libraries using zotero storage.” Note – ***This will also sync your individual references for outside of group use***

Create your group and share it with others

You can create a new group library by clicking on the new group icon in the upper left hand corner of the Zotero application. This redirects you to the Zotero website where you can create a group and invite members. You have three privacy options with groups; completely private, public with closed membership, public with open membership. If you are uploading resources obtained through a licensed subscription you should choose “private.”

Under the Members tab on the webpage you can invite new members to join the group. Once they have joined you can make the admins or simply members of the group. The library tab allows you to set granular permissions for who can view, edit, and administer resources in the library.


Using the Microsoft Word Extension to create in-text citations and bibliographies

To make the extension work in Word, both Firefox or Zotero Standalone and Word have to be open
1. Open your paper in Word.
2. In your paper, put the cursor where you want the parenthetical citation to go.
3. Click on the “Add-Ins” tab:
4. You should have a bar that looks like this:

(This is what you just installed!)

5. Click the “r.’z” box:

6. Select the style in which you would like to cite your sources. If you do not see a style that suits your needs, you can download more at

7. A box will pop up with a search bar. From here you can either type in a few letters of the authors name or article title that you wish to cite. If you would like to view all of your citations before you make a selection, click on the red “Z” and select “classic view”.

**Note: If you only want to see classic view, simply go into your Zotero preferences, click on the “Cite” tab, and then check the box that says “Use classic Add Citation dialog”

7. Using classic view, you can browse through your Zotero citations and pick the right one. After you choose a citation from one of these methods, the parenthetical citation will be entered into your document at the right place.
8. After you are done citing everything, click on the “insert bibliography button”, found to the right of the “r.pencil button”:This should add the works cited for all the citations you have made.

9. In order to edit the works in your bibliography, click on the “edit bibliography button” found to the right of the “insert bibliography button”. From here you can use the arrows to insert or take works out of your bibliography.

10. As with any automated bibliography software, you should always look over your citations to make sure that they look accurate and aren’t missing anything. If you need a refresher for APA, you can find one on the library website here:

Moving citations between Zotero and EndNote
While Zotero can create bibliographies in 15-20 different citation styles, EndNote version X1 includes over 2900 styles. Zotero also lacks EndNote’s capacity to edit existing styles and create custom ones. Both programs can read and write a standard citation file format called RIS.

Zotero to EndNote
To save your Zotero library for importing into EndNote, click the Zotero button that looks like a gear and choose Export Library. Choose RIS as the file type and pick a filename. In EndNote, click File and then Import. Click the Choose File button and select the file you just exported from Zotero. Set Import Option to Reference Manager (RIS) and click Import.

EndNote to Zotero
To export your EndNote library for use in Zotero, click File and then Export. Set the output style to RefMan (RIS) Export and save it as a text file. In Zotero, click the button that looks like a gear and choose Import. Just double-click the file you exported from EndNote. The new references will be added to a collection named “Imported” followed by the date and time.

Using Both EndNote and Zotero
If you use Endnote and Zotero, you need to change the default settings in Zotero so that you are not prevented from doing a direct export to Endnote.
1. Open the Zoreto Window
2. Click on the gear icon in the Left Panel and choose Preferences.
3. Uncheck the box that says “Use Zotero for downloading Endnote Files”.

If you are having chronic problems getting Zotero to work across multiple sites, try disabling all Firefox add-ons except Zotero. To do this, open the Tools menu, click “Add-ons”, and click “Disable” for every add-on, and then restart Firefox. If this solves the problem, re-enable the add-ons one-by-one until you find the conflict, and then post the name of the add-on that was causing the issue to the forums.

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