Using Zotero: a quick guide
This is a quick guide to Zotero. There are many other functions and options available which are not included here. For more information go to Zotero.
Zotero is a bibliographic software package which allows you to:
- Import references from databases
- Import saved PDFs to create references
- Add correctly formatted citations to Word documents
- Build a bibliography
- Share references with a defined group
Using Zotero: a quick guide
How do I register?
Zotero offers a free and two-paid for versions. For most users the free version provides adequate storage and functionality.
To register go to Zotero.
Zotero has a web and a desktop interface; to access all the functions of Zotero you will need to use both.
PCs in the Library and PC clusters in College have Zotero desktop installed.
To download Zotero desktop onto your own machine click on the Download button and follow the installation instructions.
How do I sync between my desktop and web accounts?
Setting up account syncing between your desktop and web versions is really important. If you don’t do this, and don’t use it, then you may lose references you have added when you log off.
To set this up on the desktop version:
- go to the Edit tab, and then choose Preferences
- On the Sync tab of the popup window, enter your Zotero username and password and click Set Up Syncing
It is good practice to regularly sync when using Zotero, and you can do so by clicking on the round green arrow in the top right of the program window. If you are using a College PC, make sure to enter your Zotero username and password in the Sync tab every time you sign on to the computer, or your references will not save.
How do I add references to my account?
There are various way to do this:
- Import using the web importer Zotero Connector
- Import saved PDFs to generate references
- Add references manually
- Import references from a file
- Adding references by identifier
1. Import using the web importer Zotero Connector
Zotero Connector allows you to import references from a range of resources including Web of Science, Scopus, PubMed and Google Scholar.
To install the bookmarklet in your browser:
From the Zotero website:
- Click the Download link on the homepage
- Click the Install Browser Connector link
- Follow the instructions to install the Web Importer
- Conduct a search in your chosen resource
- From the Results screen click on Zotero Connector in your toolbar
- A box will appear containing a summary of all the references on the screen
- Select the ones you want to import by ticking the relevant boxes or choose Select All
- To view these references in Zotero desktop hit the Sync button
- To view in Zotero web you may need to refresh your browser
2. Import saved PDFs to create references
If you have saved PDFs of journal articles you can drag and drop files, or folders into Zotero desktop. Articles will need to have a digital object identifier (DOI) in order for this to work. This will generate a reference for the article and also save a copy of the PDF in your Zotero library.
Please note that the free version of Zotero has a 300MB limit. There are paid for storage options, but Imperial unfortunately does not provide these.
3. Add references manually
- To add references manually click on the File tab, and then click on New item
- A drop down menu of item types will appear, and so you should select the relevant one, which will give you a blank template.
- Complete all the required fields (you may wish to refer to a guide for your chosen referencing style so you know what these are for each type of material) and hit the Save button
4. Importing references in a file
If you are searching a resource which is not compatible with the web importer you can save your references in a file and import into Zotero.
- Conduct a search in your chosen resource
- On the Results screen select the references you want to export
- Look for a Save/Export citations button
- Save the references in .RIS or.BibTeX format
- In Zotero click on the File tab and select Import
- Find your saved file and hit the Open button
- The saved references will now be imported into your Zotero library
5. Adding references by identifier
You can add references using identifiers such as an ISBN or a DOI. To do this, click the wand icon above the reference list.
A popup search bar will appear, into which you can copy the identifier. The reference will then be added to your library.
How do I organise and search my references?
You can organise your references by creating folders (called Collections) and adding tags to references.
- Right click in the side navigation and click New Collection, and give the folder a name
- Drag and drop the references you want to add onto the folder name
- First click on the reference to open it
- Click the Tags tab above the information above the reference
- Some imported references may already have tags added
- Click Add, and then type the text you want for your tag and press enter
- All the tags will appear in the bottom left of the browser, and you can filter by clicking on the tags
How do I annotate PDFs?
References with PDFs attached will have a blue dot in the column with a paperclip in. Open the PDF by double clicking somewhere in the row.
This will open the PDF using your chosen PDF software (e.g. Adobe Reader, your browser). You can then use the annotation and highlight capabilities of your chosen PDF software to make notes on your document.
Zotero is currently developing a PDF reader which will allow annotations to be made directly within the software. Further information is available here on Zotero pdf reader preview.
How do I create a reference list/bibliography?
Zotero can take the references in your library and insert them as citations in your Word document and generate a reference list in a variety of referencing styles. You can also use Zotero with Google Docs, but the instructions below are for Microsoft Word.
Zotero will be installed in the tabs across the top in Word when you download Zotero desktop. If you are using a College PC and do not see Zotero you may need to open Zotero desktop and go to the Tools menu, select More and check that the Zotero Word for Windows plugin is enabled.
- Please your cursor where you want a citation to appear
- Click on Add/Edit Citation in the Zotero tab
- The first time you use this a popup may prompt you to choose which referencing style you are using. You can also change the style through the desktop app by clicking the Edit tab, selecting Preferences, choosing the Cite tab and selecting the one you one from the list, or looking for additional styles through Get more styles
- After clicking the Add/Edit Citation a search field will appear, and you can search for the details of the reference you want, before you select the correct reference from the list provided and press Return on your keyboard.
- When you’ve finished adding citations, place your cursor where you’d like your reference list to appear and click on Add/Edit Bibliography. This will generate a reference list in your selected style
How do I share references with other people?
With Zotero you can set up or join groups which allow you to share references and collaborate more easily.
Go to Zotero groups for more information.
How do I create a profile in Zotero?
In Zotero web you can create a profile which details your areas of interest. You can also upload your own publications to Zotero to allow other researchers to access them. Please check the publisher’s copyright policies before doing this.
In Zotero web click on Settings in the top right corner. This allows you to update things including your Profile and Privacy.