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EXSC 331 : Scientific Writing : Citation Management with Zotero

The Wonderful World of Zotero

Zotero is a citation management tool that will save you time, and make your life SO much easier. This tutorial will get you up and running with the basic skills of importing, managing, and exporting citations. Zotero has many additional features, such as tools for making notes about citations, plug-ins for Microsoft Word to allow you to directly insert your citations, and options for sharing folders with groups.

Note that  Zotero is a plug-in for your browser (or can be downloaded as an app), so if you do most of your research from one computer, it may work best. If you do a lot of switching around between different computers, you may need to either frequently re-sync your library, run Firefox from a thumbdrive, or try another citation management tool such as Refworks.   

Zotero is a tool primarily designed for storing the metadata (that is, information about something...the information you need to create a citation) for resources, and not necessarily the article (or chapter or book or whatnot) itself. You CAN use either Zotero as a means of storing your article PDFs, and it will try to  automatically import PDFs as it finds  them. You can also manually add your PDFs to your Zotero library later. It does have a file storage limit of 300 megabytes, so will not be able to hold hundreds and hundreds of PDFs (though you can purchase additional storage if you wish). 

This page runs through some steps to getting set up and getting practice with basic skills in Zotero (below). Give it a try!  

If you have ANY questions or need help, please don't hesitate to email Eli!

Zotero Step One: Manage your articles with Zotero

1.      Manage Your Articles with Zotero: If you have not yet installed Zotero, please do so now. Zotero 5.0 is a stand alone application (sort of like iTunes) that lives on your computer and talks to your browser. Note that it is a TWO PART have to download the app, and then the appropriate browser connector to make the app talk to your browser. Then go to and register for a free account, and make sure that your account is logged in through your preferences tab so that your library will automatically sync. See below for screenshot of where to enter your username to sync your account. 

Be sure to download the Microsoft Word Plug-In so that you can insert citations directly into Microsoft Word as you type! 

Step Two: Import Articles

Click the link below to access the April 2015 volume of CJOT.  Browse the titles and select one article which appeals to you. Click on 'full text' to read the abstract and introduction. 

a.    Import the article into your Zotero library by clicking the ‘import into Zotero’ icon. Things to keep in mind: the icon will change depending on the page you're coming from! It may look like a little folder if it recognizes multiple articles. It also may be in a different spot depending on your browser! Often in Safari and Chrome, it appears to the left of the URL bar. Also note that you have to be on a page that has metadata for Zotero to find...if you are on a PDF view of the page, you may not see the icon (though you may be able to "Save As -> save to Zotero" from the PDF view). Also note that not every publisher or database plays nicely with Zotero in all browsers (I shake my tiny fist at you, AJOT!)

b. Notice whether the PDF was also imported. If so, rename the PDF by right-clicking to ‘rename from parent metadata.’ If the PDF did NOT automatically attach, manually download the PDF and attach it to the correct item in your Zotero library.


c.Try this for several more articles that look interesting to you...practice importing them as well.  

d. Try searching for articles in PubMed; practice importing them both individually from an article page, and as a batch from a search results page (look for the little folder icon).

e. Go to and practice importing two or three newspaper articles. 

Steps Three & Four: Organize & Export Your Sources

3.    Organize your sources: Once you have imported at least four articles into your Zotero library, create a folder called “Zotero Skills Practice” and add your article to that folder. Articles can be added by dragging and dropping them into your folders. Folders are created via the tiny folder icon with a green plus sign in the upper lefthand corner. Note that an item can be in multiple folders (also called "collections" by Zotero), and that it will always be in your main library and whatever folders you have put it into. If you delete it out of the folder, it will still be in 'My Library,' but if you delete it out of 'My Library,' it will disappear from all of its folders. 

 4.      Export your articles: You’ve got a library full of articles; how do you get your works cited page?

a.  Create a bibliography from your 'Zotero Skills Practice' collection by right clicking and selecting 'Create Bibliography from Collection' ; select the appropriate citation style, output it as a bibliography, and save it as RTF.

You'll be given the chance to select the style that you'd like to use, and how you'd like to export it.  Choose RTF, usually. 

b.     Note that if you do not see the appropriate style listed as an option, you can go to your Zotero 'preferences' (the icon that looks like a gear), then click the 'Cite' tile, then the 'Styles' tab to see the styles that you currently have loaded. You can click the 'Get Additional Styles' link to go to the Style Repository and import additional styles.