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Citation Management Tools

This guide includes information about citation management tools, or applications used to organize your references, generate bibliographies, and collaborate with others.

What is Zotero?

Zotero (pronounced "zoh-TAIR-oh") is an application that collects, manages, and cites research sources. It's easy to use, connects with your web browser to automatically download sources, and is completely free. Zotero was created for the Firefox browser and can also be used with Chrome. It allows you to attach PDFs, notes, and images to your citations, organize them into collections, tag them with keywords for different projects, and use over 8,000 citation styles to create bibliographies. If you want to synchronize your data across devices, Zotero lets you access your research from any web browser. It also supports collaboration and sharing—you can co-create papers or bibliographies and share materials with as many people as you’d like.

Zotero does have a few limitations. You receive 300 MB of storage when you sign up for a Zotero account. This is less than you receive when you sign up for other citation managers, but you can purchase more storage if necessary. In addition, while Zotero’s status as an independent, nonprofit organization that has no financial interest in your private information is a positive attribute, this means that user support may not be as robust as it is for other tools.

Technical Compatibility

  • Platforms: Zotero has full support for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  • Synchronization: Data syncing allows you to work with your data from any computer that has Zotero installed.
  • Mobile access: The mobile version of zotero.org allows you to access and edit your Zotero library on your tablet or mobile phone.
  • Multiple computer access: Install Zotero on multiple computers to access your Zotero library.

Reference Management

  • Full-text search: Zotero extracts full-text content from PDFs for searching.
  • Metadata retrieval: Zotero automatically retrieves metadata from the PDFs you import.
  • Highlight/annotate: Highlight and annotate your files before sharing them with others.
  • Organizational flexibility: Choose how to organize your files with groups, tags, and filters.

Groups and Sharing

  • Sharing: Share your own work or sources you have discovered with others who are working in related areas.
  • Groups: Collaborate with colleagues, publicly or privately, on ongoing research.
  • Networking: Discover other people with similar interests and the sources they are citing.

Integration

  • Word processing: Zotero makes inserting bibliographies created with Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and other programs simple.
  • Import/export formats: Zotero can import and export BibTeX, EndNote, RIS, and other formats.
  • Zotero API: Zotero's API is completely open source and can be used by third parties to build applications using Zotero's data.

How to Install and Use Zotero (Tutorials)

Interactive Tutorial

Use the Downloading and Installing Zotero tutorial for a step-by-step, interactive experience that will lead you through the process of installing the software on your PC or Mac.

Text-Only Instructions

Follow the instructions below to install Zotero on your computer.

  1. Using either the Firefox or Chrome browser, begin at the Zotero site.
  2. Click on the red “Download” button in the center of the screen.
    1. Note.The site determines whether you’re using a Mac or a PC that’s running either Chrome or Firefox.
  3. From the pop-up window, click the blue “Download” button under “Zotero 5.0 for PC” or “Zotero 5.0 for Mac.”
    1. Note. When you download Zotero, you’re also adding a Zotero tab to Microsoft Word and, if you’re using Chrome, a Zotero tab to Google Docs.
  4. Click the blue “Install Chrome Connector” or “Install Firefox Connector” button under “Zotero Connector.” This will add a button to your browser that makes collecting citations very simple.
  5. Once you've downloaded and opened Zotero, you will see an empty Zotero dashboard.

There are a few different ways to add citations to Zotero.

1. Magic Wand Tool

If you click the magic wand icon (Add Items by Identifier) at the top of the dashboard, you can enter ISBNs, DOIs, PMIDs, or arXiv IDs to automatically add items to your library.

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2. Manual Creation 

Another way to get citations into Zotero is to create them manually. If you click the plus icon at the top of the dashboard (New Item), you can choose a source and then type in information about the citation in the right pane of Zotero.

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3. Drag and Drop

If you happen to have any PDFs on your desktop or in your downloads, you can simply drag them into Zotero, which will extract citation information from them.

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4. Zotero Connector

The simplest way to add citations to Zotero is to use the Zotero Connector that you downloaded earlier. It should appear as a small icon at the top right of your browser window. You can use the Connector to add citations and, when they’re available, PDFs.

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If you have a whole page of results, the icon will appear as a folder. When you click on it, you will be able to add any of the citations from your page of results to Zotero.

If you are looking at a single result, the icon will appear as a paper. When you click on it, you will be able to add that citation to Zotero.

You can collect citations in this way from any of the library’s databases, Google Scholar, Wikipedia, or other places on the web where you can find articles, books, archival materials, websites, etc.

In Zotero, citations are organized in folders that are called “libraries.”

Any time you add a citation, it is automatically added to your “My Library.” You can then create additional libraries and copy any or all of the citations in “My Library” to other libraries that you create.

You can create a library for a specific paper or writing project and fill it with all the citations that you might need for it. 

You can also add tags to individual citations and then search by those tags. When you add new citations to Zotero, many of them come with tags that were assigned by authors or publishers.

If you click on a citation, you’ll see a pane on the right side of Zotero that shows “Info,” “Notes,” “Tags,” and “Related.”

You can add new tags here, as well as write notes about each citation for your own personal use.

When you downloaded Zotero, you downloaded a Zotero tab for Word. (If you used Chrome, you also downloaded a Zotero tab for Google Docs.)

1. Open a New Document

When you open a new document in Word, you’ll see a tab for Zotero. If you click on it and then on “Add/Edit Citation,” you can begin adding in-text citations to your document.

2. Set Up a Citation Style

The first time you click it, you will set up which citation style you’ll be using in your document. While there are about twenty preloaded citation styles, you have access to thousands more. You can also change the citation style you’ve chosen at any point, including after you’ve completed your document.

3. Insert Citations

Once you’ve set up your preferred citation style, you insert each citation by clicking the “Add/Edit Citation” button and beginning to type a title or author. Once the correct one appears, click enter and an in-text citation will appear. You can continue adding citations as you write.

4. Add a Bibliography

Once you’ve added at least one citation, you can put your cursor near the end of the document and click on the “Add/Edit Bibliography” button to add a bibliography. Even after doing this, you can continue to add new in-text citations and they will appear in the bibliography.

While you must have a desktop version of Zotero on your main computer, you can also link your account to an online version.

Online Zotero allows you to sync all of your citations so that they’re also stored in the cloud. In addition, you can create groups to share citations with others.

  1. Go to the Zotero website.
  2. Click on “Log in” and then “Register for a free account.”
  3. Once you’ve done this, you can click on the curved arrow icon in the upper right corner of Zotero desktop and follow the instructions to link your desktop and online Zotero.

Whenever you add new citations to Zotero, you can click the curved arrow to sync your accounts.

You can also create or join groups to share citations with others using online Zotero.

Vendor Information

Additional Resources for Using Zotero

Zotero Homepage: Download Zotero and learn how to use it.

GSU Zotero Library Guide: Jason Puckett, a librarian at Georgia State University and an expert in Zotero, created this very helpful Library Guide. It includes the following content:

In addition, ASU Library users have access to Zotero: a guide for librarians, researchers and educators (online) by Jason Puckett. 

Zotero YouTube Videos: Step-by-step video instructions on Zotero by Nicholas Cifuentes-Goodbody.

Zotero Support: A knowledge base from Zotero arranged by subject.

Never forget to use the online HTML editor tools when it comes to composing or converting articles for the web.

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