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Waidner-Spahr Library

Citing Sources: Zotero

Introduction to Zotero

zotero logo

What is Zotero?

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is an open-source tool which allows you to collect, organize, cite, and share research sources easily, using a web browser extension along with a stand-alone program on your computer. Developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, Zotero is open-source, and thus completely free.

How Does Zotero Work?

Zotero button

Zotero's web extension adds a button to your browser's address bar, allowing you to save the citation information (metadata) of many sources – and in some cases, the sources themselves – to your Zotero collection, and sync them to your devices. This helps you organize your sources and create automatic citations. Zotero captures metadata from any given resource, and can also save files such as full-text PDFs directly from a library database.

Zotero also allows you to take notes on each saved source directly within the program, and to organize sources using tags and folders.

Installing Zotero

To begin using Zotero, download the application here. You will also want to download the appropriate Zotero Connector browser plugin for the browser you prefer. For more information, see Zotero's installation instructions.

Zotero doesn’t require you to create an account. You can directly import sources into Zotero, and they are ready to use for citations and bibliographies.

Integration with Microsoft Word allows you to cite your sources in any of Zotero's supported citation styles.

Getting Started with Zotero

Adding Sources to Zotero

The distinguishing feature of Zotero is that the Zotero Connector browser plugin allows you to instantaneously collect sources as you do research online. For Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, if you click on the Zotero icon next to your search bar, the source's bibliographic information – whether an article in a database or a web page – will be automatically saved. The Zotero standalone application must be running for the browser connector plugin to work.

zotero import




Another method for adding items to your Zotero library is searching by the ISBN, DOI, or PubMed ID of your sources. In Zotero, click on the “Add Item(s) by Identifier”  tool in the top bar and enter the information.

You can also manually enter an item by choosing the “New Item”  tool and select the appropriate type of document (book, journal, newspaper, etc.) Add bibliographic information using the empty panel on the right.









For more detail on adding sources to Zotero, visit Zotero’s documentation or watch the following video:

Find Available PDF and Library Lookup

Zotero offers several features to search for the full text of sources in your Library. If you right click on a source and select "Find Available PDF," Zotero will search online to find an open access copy of the source, if any exists.

Find Available PDF

For articles where no PDF is available, or for other types of sources, you can use the Library Lookup option to search for the item through JumpStart. To do this, you will need to configure the OpenURL Resolver by going to the Preferences menu-->Advanced, and entering the below link in the box labeled "Resolver." 

OpenURL Resolver URL:

OpenURL Resolver

After adding the OpenURL, you can select a source, then click on the right-facing green arrow, and finally select "Library Lookup" as in the below image, to automatically search for that source in JumpStart to access our holdings or submit an ILL request. 

Organizing Your Library and Taking Notes

Zotero’s “Collection” feature allows users to easily organize their sources into groups and subgroups for different purposes. Items can be directly imported into the groups, or added after they are already in the library. To create a collection, click on the “New Collection” tool and enter your chosen title. The new collection will appear under the “My Library” menu.








To create a subcollection, right-click on the specific collection, and a toolbox will appear. You can choose “New Subcollection” and add its title like above. With the same toolbox, you can rename and delete collections as you wish. 








When directly importing online sources to a collection, you can choose the collection prior to saving.

Zotero also has the “Tags” feature which helps you specifically characterize items based on different criteria like topics, main ideas, etc. To add tags, click on the specific item, and the toolbox will appear on the right. Choose the “Tags” option in the top bar, then click “Add.”

Afterwards, you can use the “Advanced Search”   tool and choose “Tag” to search for a particular tag and the embedded source.

For more information on collections and tags, visit Zotero’s Collections and Tags.

Additionally, in Zotero you can take notes on an item, as well as general notes. To add notes to a source, select the source and then choose the “New Note” tool in the top bar. Then choose “Add Child Note” to open a text box where you can type in your note. You can also select a source and then select the "Notes" section in the box to the right.

For more information, visit Zotero’s Notes.

Creating Bibliographies

Creating Bibliographies

To generate a bibliography using Zotero, you can simply right-click on the selected source, and choose “Create Bibliography from Item.” Additionally, you can hold “Shift” on your keyboard to select multiple sources at a time and create a full bibliography.









You can choose among the various citation styles offered in the “Create Citation/Bibliography” box or search for other styles using the “Manage Styles” option.


The final step is to choose the “Output method” you wish, either as RTF, HTML, or as a copy to the Clipboard that can be directly pasted in your documents. For more information, visit Zotero's Creating Bibliographies documentation.

Zotero Integration with Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and LibreOffice

In addition to tools within Zotero to create bibliographies, Zotero can be integrated with the following word processors: Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and the free and open-source LibreOffice. To do this, you must install a plugin for your word processor. You can do this from within the Zotero Standalone application by choosing Preferences-->Cite-->Word Processors, and installing the appropriate plugin for your word processor. If the plugin for Word is not active (you do not see a Zotero tab in the Word ribbon bar) after opening Word, you can resolve it by clicking on "Reinstall Microsoft Word Add-in" in the Zotero Word Processors preferences menu (mentioned in the last sentence). If you are using Google Docs, you do not need to install a separate plugin, as the browser Connector for Firefox or Google Chrome takes care of this integration for you.

Inserting Citations

Once you have successfully installed the Zotero plugin in Microsoft Word, you can directly insert citations from Zotero into your document. The Zotero standalone application must be running for the plugin to work.

Click on “Zotero” in the Menu Bar of the Word Document and then “Add/Edit Citation.”

Choose the style of citation you wish or click on “Manage Styles” to customize your own set of citation styles.


Within the Style Manager window, you can choose “Get additional styles” if your preferred citation is not already listed, or remove styles you don’t normally use by choosing the style you wish to delete and clicking the minus (-) box.


Once you have selected your citation style, a Zotero citation bar will appear. In this bar, you can type in the author’s name or source title to find the source you need to cite, then either click on the source or use the arrows keys to highlight the source and press enter to confirm. Once you have confirmed the source, press enter to insert a Zotero citation. To further edit your citation before inserting it into your document, for instance to add page numbers or suppress author names, click on the parenthetical citation in the Zotero bar before pressing enter a second time to insert the citation, as in the image below. You can also create a compound citation containing multiple sources by adding subsequent sources in the same Zotero bar before pressing enter to insert the citation.

If you need to change your citation style afterwards, you can always choose “Document Preferences” in the top bar.


Creating Bibliographies

Once you have added Zotero citations into your document, you can create a bibliography. Move to the end of your document and type the heading on a new page (“References,” “Bibliography,” “Works Cited,” etc.). Zotero will not automatically generate the heading. Then select “Add/Edit Bibliography.”

Zotero will create a bibliography out of the existing Zotero citations.

If you want to edit your bibliography by adding sources not cited in the text or excluding a source, you can click on “Add/Edit Bibliography” again after highlighting the existing bibliography.

Note: In case there are any problems with the information presented in the citation, such as author, date, or publication, please correct the Zotero record itself to prevent future repetition of the mistake. Open Zotero and choose the document you want to modify. The “Info” box will appear on the right, and you can click on any elements listed to edit them.

For more information or help on how to use word processor integration with Zotero, see the above video or visit Zotero's word processor usage guide.

Language Support

For information on citation support for languages in Zotero, please see the following help pages:

  1. Setting the Zotero user interface language, and support for multilingual citations
  2. Setting citation language codes to prevent title casing 
  3. Languages supported by Zotero citation styles 

Please note that there are multiple language configuration menus in Zotero. To prevent title casing of citations written in non-English languages, add the language code to the "Language" field in the Zotero record, as in link #2 above. To change the formatting of the citations themselves (e.g., translating terms such as "volume" into another language, changing the punctuation, etc.), check to make sure the language is supported in the list of languages in link #3 above, then select the language from the Zotero Document Preferences as in the below image (accessed when insert a citation into a document using the Zotero word processor plugin), if it is available for the citation style you are using. For additional help, please consult a librarian. 

Zotero document preferences window

Extracting References from an Existing Document

There are several ways to extract references from an existing document such as a Word file. Zotero provides documentation here:  importing formatted bibliographies.

In the case where the Word or other document was not prepared with RefWorks or Zotero, you can use to create a formatted list of citations that can be imported into Zotero. Simply paste your bibliography into the website, download the results as a BibTeX file, then select File-->Import in your Zotero window to add the references to a new collection.

Please note that this method can return incorrect results at times compared to exporting the references from a library database. While this method saves considerable time, you may need to make some corrections to the resulting entries. 

You can also use this method to import a list of references from a PDF, such as an academic article's bibliography. An alternative would be to find the article in Web of Science (if it is available) and then use the "Cited References" feature to export the list of references directly to Zotero. This may return more accurate citations, but will not export citations that are not themselves available as Web of Science records, so depending on the article the list may be incomplete.