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Citation Management Tools: Zotero

What is Zotero?

Zotero (pronounced "zoh-TAIR-oh") is a free, open-source, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, manage, cite, and share your research sources. It's accessible within your web browser as you do your work. Zotero allows you to attach PDFs, notes, and images to your citations. It also allows you to organize them into collections for different projects, and create bibliographies using Microsoft Word, LibreOffice or Google Docs.

With Zotero, you can...

import references from databases, catalogs, and websites

organize your references, PDFs, and other file types

take notes

create citations and bibliographies

collaborate with groups

sync and backup your library

read, annotate, and take notes on your PDFs with Zotero's built-in PDF reader

Tutorials & Other Helpful Guides

Zotero 6 on Youtube

Quick Start Guide

Zotero Documentation 

Screencast Tutorials

Install & Registrar

First, install both the personal research assistant and Zotero Connector.

The personal research assistant is your library, an application downloaded to your computer. The Zotero connector is an add-on for your browser (Firefox or Chrome recommended). Follow the installation instructions or use their Quick Start Guide for assistance.

Then, sign up for a Zotero account using any email address.

Set Up Sync

With an account, you will be able to sync your library to and access it from anywhere. You'll also be able to participate in group libraries.

Next, start up Zotero on your desktop and link your online account. On a PC go to Edit and click Preferences then Sync (Mac: Zotero -- Preferences -- Sync) 


Zotero for Mobile 

Zotero offers mobile options so you can stay on top of your research wherever you go! The official Zotero iPad and iPhone app is available on the App Store.  The mobile version of the Zotero web library also allows you to access and edit your Zotero library on your tablet or mobile phone. You can also save items to your Zotero account using

Apps for iOS, Android and others can be found here. 


Add Bluebook Style

Unfortunately, Zotero does not come with the Bluebook style automatically included in the style options. Nonetheless, this is easily fixed! On your desktop app, go to Edit and click Preferences and then Cite. 

You will see in the list of options, Bluebook is not listed. Simply click "Get additional styles..." and a new window will open with the Style Repository. Here, you will search for Bluebook in the search bar. Below the search box, two Bluebook options will appear. Select Bluebook Law Review.

Once you select it, the window will return to your preferences. Be sure Bluebook is highlighted and click "OK" to save the setting. 

Using the Connector

The Zotero Connector icon, located in the upper right of your browser, will change depending on the type of source information it detects on a page. Some common icons you'll see are for:

When you click the icon, you'll see a Zotero pop-up that confirms the item information is being saved to your library. If Zotero detects a PDF, it will save that, too!

Using Proxies

Several scholarly databases, like HeinOnline and JSTOR, require you to sign in to the ONU proxy system to access electronic resources.  The Zotero Connector can make this more convenient. When it detects that you are using an institutional proxy to access a particular site, it will ask if you want to remember it in the future. If you agree, Zotero will automatically use the proxy for matching URLs in the future. 

Drag and Drop

Do you already have PDF files that you want in Zotero? Using the drag-and-drop feature, you can select PDFs from your computer files and drag them into your Zotero library.  When you do so, Zotero will also retrieve the full bibliographic metadata (for searching, citing, indexing, and organizing), from the PDF, making it painless. 

If "Retrieve Metadata for PDF" doesn't work, or the PDF is from a primary source, scan, or other non-academic source, you can choose "Create Parent Item" instead. Then choose either "Manual Entry" to add the metadata yourself in Zotero's right column, or input an identifier such as a DOI or ISBN, if you have one, to enter the metadata automatically.

Zotero should retrieve high-quality metadata for most academic PDFs. While it can sometimes extract basic information (title, author) from other documents, you shouldn't expect that — anything can be distributed as a PDF, but that doesn’t mean there’s any standard metadata available for it.

Add by Identifier

You can quickly add items to your library if you already know their ISBN, DOI, PubMed ID, or arXiv ID. To add an item via one of these identifiers, click the “Add Item by Identifier” button at the top of the center column of the Zotero pane, type or paste in the identifier, and press Enter/Return.

To enter multiple identifiers at one time, type the first identifier, then press Shift+Enter/Return, then type the remaining identifiers (one on each line). Once you've typed all the identifiers, press Shift+Enter/Return to import all the items at once. You can also paste a list of multiple identifiers (each on a separate line), then press Shift+Enter/Return to finish.


When using Zotero (or any other reference manager) for citing, you should always check items for accuracy after saving them to your library.

Organizing References 

In Zotero, you can only have one library. This differs from some other citation managers such as PowerNotes--where you can have different libraries for different projects, classes, etc. While you can only have a single library in Zotero, you can organize that library using collections, subcollections, and tags.


  • To create a new collection, go to File New Collection or right-click on My Library in the left sidebar and choose New Collection from there. 

  • Once you have created your collection(s), you can drag and drop items from your library to a specific collection, or you can add them to the desired collection from the start. 
  • Every item you put in a collection is still in your main library; however, they are not copies, so if you move an item in a collection to the trash, it will remove it from your library entirely, and vice versa. To remove an item from a collection but keep it in your library, right-click on the item and choose Remove Item from Collection.


  • A subcollection is exactly what it sounds like--a collection below or within another collection.
  • To create a new subcollection, right-click on the collection you would like it to be a part of and choose New Subcollection
  • You can create subcollections within subcollections and subcollections within subcollections within subcollections and so on.


  • Items that you import from databases or add using a PMID or other identifier may come with tags already attached.
  • You can add, remove, or edit tags by clicking on an item and going to the Tags tab at the top of the right sidebar.
  • Tags are searchable using the search bar above your library.

Keep Your Library Clean

When you save an item to Zotero, take a quick look to be sure all the citation information is correct and included. All the fields can be edited and if they contain the correct information, later on, your citations will need less editing!

As your Zotero library grows, you may have an item in multiple folders. Or, you see the item in your library, but have no idea what folder or folders contain that item! To see all the folders an item is inselect the item and hold the Control (Windows) or Option (Mac) key. This will highlight all the folders that contain that item.

Microsoft Word

When you installed Zotero, it included the word processor plugin for Microsoft Word and LibreOffice. In newer versions of Word, you'll see Zotero as a tab in the menu. 

If this is not automatically added to your Microsoft tool bar, open Zotero, go to Edit, select Preferences, select Cite from the menu, select Word Processors, and click Install Microsoft Word Add-in.

This plugin works when your Zotero application is open. As you write, place the cursor where you want the citation. Click Add/Edit Citation, choose from your Zotero library, and watch it drop in your citation!

When you are done writing, select Add/Edit Bibliography. Zotero will take all your in-text citations (or footnotes) and create a bibliography.

Google Docs 

Zotero works similarly in Google Docs. Your Zotero Connector added Zotero as a menu item in Google Docs. Add/Edit Citation will prompt you to search your Zotero library for the item you want to cite. When you are done writing, insert a bibliography with one click!

Create a Bibliography 

Quickly create a bibliography by right-clicking on a folder in your Zotero library and selecting Generate Bibliography from Collection.

Or, select specific items from a folder, then right-click and select Create Bibliography from Items.

Drag & Drop

If you just want to quickly add references to a paper, email, or blog post, Zotero's Quick Copy is the easiest way to go. Simply select items in the center column of your library and drag them into any text document. Zotero will automatically create a formatted bibliography for you.

Related Items

In addition to collections and tags, a third way to express relationships between items is by setting up “relations”. Relations can be set up between any pair of items in a library (it is not possible to relate items from different libraries).

To create a relation, select an item in the center pane and go to the “Related” tab of the right pane. Click the “Add” button, and select one or more items from the same library in the pop-up window (hold down Ctrl or Shift [Windows/Linux] or Cmd or Shift [Mac] to select multiple items), and click “OK”. The selected items will now show up as related items in the “Related” tab, and clicking an item will take you straight to that item.

My Publications

Share your own work using Zotero. My Publications allows you to quickly share a bibliography of your work. You can link your publications to your Zotero profile. You can also share files for which you have distribution rights.

To share an item with My Publications, drag it to the “My Publications” special collection under “My Library” in the Zotero desktop client app.

The Juris Project

Jurism is based on the popular Zotero reference manager, to which it adds features for handling legal and multilingual resources.

Download the Jurism client here.  

Reference Appointments

The Taggart Law Library is here to help! Schedule an appointment with a librarian or chat with us using our online chat feature. Open to ONU Law students, faculty, staff, and alumni.