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An introduction to the citation management software Zotero, also a companion to our workshop of the same name.

Organizing Your Library

Click the Zotero button at the bottom of your browser to open your library. At the top left is a folder button with a green plus sign. Click this to create a new "collection."

Create collections to organize your references. Collections are like file folders on your computer, but a reference can be in more than one collection at a time. In other words, a book on the Civil War could be filed in your "Civil War" collection, your "Georgia History" collection, and your "19th Century America" collection without having to make three copies of the reference.

Image shows a screenshot of the interface of Zotero 5.0 and points to the "Add New Collection" button.

Creating Bibliographies

To create a bibliography from your Zotero collection, select the references or collections you want to include. Hold the control key and click to select multiple items. Right-click one of the selected items and choose Create Bibliography.

Choose the bibliographic style you want, select Copy to Clipboard, click OK and paste into your word processor.  This method works with any word processor (or anywhere you can paste text).

Screenshot of the Zotero 5.0 interface, highlighting the "Create Bibliography from Collection" section.


Zotero offers word processing plugins for Word, LibreOffice and Google Docs. The plugin adds a Zotero toolbar to your word processor that allows you to add citations to your document while you write.

To add a citation, click the first button ("Insert Citation") on the toolbar. Search for the reference you want to cite and press Enter. Zotero will add the citation at your cursor.

At the end of your paper, click the third button ("Insert Bibliography"). Your bibliography will appear, and new citations will be added automatically.

A virtual walk-through of how to best use the Microsoft Word intergration is displayed in the video below.

Zotero comes with the most common bibliographic styles, but many more are available to download.

To install a style:

  1. Go to the Zotero Style Repository page.
  2. Search for the name of the style you need.
  3. Download the style (right-click the "Install" link and choose "Save As").
  4. Open Zotero preferences. Click "Cite", then "Styles", then the "+" button, and select the style you downloaded (a .CSL file).

The new style will appear in Zotero's style lists.

Syncing Your Library

If you are regularly using more than one computer in your research or go between Zotero 5.0 and Zotero Online, Zotero's sync feature can keep your library up to date across all platforms.  Zotero can store a copy of your library on their serve and check for updates whenever you open your library on a different computer.  For this to work, all of your computers must be running the same version of Zotero.

To initially set up the sync feature in Zotero 5.0, complete the following steps:

  1. Go to Preferences (under the Edit tab).
  2. Select the Sync tab.
  3. Enter your Zotero user name and password. 
  4. Check the "Sync Automatically" box.
  5. Check both boxes under File Syncing and choose Zotero storage for My Library. This will sync your PDF attachments as well as citations. 
  6. Click OK.  The Preferences box will close.
  7. In the main Zotero interface, click the green circular arrow button at the top right corner of the Zotero window.
  8. Zotero will upload your library to the server.
  9. Repeat this configuration on each of your computers. 

Any updates you make on one of your computers will be reflected on the others.  This even works to synchronize your library among Windows, Mac and Linux computers.

For more details and help troubleshooting sync problems, check the Zotero site.