Zotero Quick Start Guide

Zotero logo

Zotero is a free, easy-to-use tool that stores, organizes, and cites your references conveniently all in one place. Referenced items are added to your library and can be synced with the Zotero website, making your references accessible on the web from multiple locations. It supports private and public collaborations, and offers 300MB of free online storage.  You have the option to purchase additional storage.

Setting up Zotero

  1. Download Zotero
  2. Choose which version to download and install on computer or in browser. If you normally use Firefox for browsing, then you can install just the "Zotero for Firefox" option, which is a full Zotero installation. If you use another browser, like Google Chrome or Safari, then you need to install both "Zotero Standalone" and the correct browser plugin for your browser. If you want to, you can install both the Firefox plugin and Zotero Standalone.
    Zotero download options

  3. Once downloaded a Zotero Icon will appear on your desktop , if you have chosen the standalone version, and on the toolbar in your browser regardless of which version chosen.
    Zotero standalone icon on desktopZotero firefox toolbar icon

  4. Set up syncing. This is also a good way to back up your collection.

    First, register for a free Zotero.org account, which gives you access to the syncing and collaboration features.

    Second, enter your Zotero.org username and password on the "Sync" tab in the Zotero preferences

    Zotero Sync Preferences Window

Getting References into Zotero

Citations can be imported into Zotero from many Western Libraries databases, websites, and PDF documents. How this is done will depend on where the citation is coming from.

Most of the time, you should be able to add references to Zotero directly. When the program is active (it will always be active for Firefox, but for Chrome and Safari the Zotero Standalone program must be open before you can save citations) Zotero will put icons in your browser’s address bar. The icons will change depending on the item. Clicking these icons will save the item to your Zotero library:

Book item

Website Item

Journal Item

List of Items

Zotero book icon

Zotero webpage icon

Zotero article icon

Zotero list of items icon

If you are using Zotero for Firefox, click on the "Z" icon in the Firefox toolbar to open the Zotero tab in your browser.

You can also use the normal "export citations" feature that most databases offer. Zotero requires the information to be saved in a special tagged format. Zotero recognizes the following tagged formats:

  • Zotero RDF
  • MODS (Metadata Object Description Schema)
  • BibTeX
  • RIS
  • Refer/BibIX
  • Unqualified Dublin Core RDF

In saving your references for import into Zotero, see if the database allows capture in any of the above formats.

Once you've exported the references from the database, use the "Import..." option in the Zotero "gear" menu to load them into your account.

Creating Bibliographies with Zotero

Formatting Documents & Creating Bibliographies in MS Word

Zotero can automatically create bibliographies and format citations in documents, assignments, manuscripts, and more in a multitude of different citation styles.

Before you can use this functionality, you have to install Zotero's plug-ins for Microsoft Word (Zotero also supports OpenOffice, LibreOffice and NeoOffice). This plugin enables Zotero to create and automatically update your bibliography and citations in your word processor. Install the plugin from the "Cite" tab in Zotero's "Preferences" window, available from both the Zotero for Firefox browser plugin and the standalone Zotero application

Zotero Preferences

Once the plugin has been installed, a custom menu bar will appear in Word under the Add-Ins tab to indicate this. Use this toolbar to automatically format in-text citations, endnotes, footnotes, and bibliographies.

Zotero toolbar in MS Word

The icons on the Toolbar performing the following functions:

Zotero Insert Citation Icon

Insert a citation

Zotero Edit Citation Icon

Edit a citation

Zotero Insert Bibliography Icon

Insert a bibliography

Zotero Edit Bibliography Icon

Edit a bibliography

Zotero Refresh Icon

Zotero refresh

Zotero Document Preferences Icon

Document preferences

Zotero Remove Codes Icon

Remove codes

  1. Open an existing or new Word document along with Zotero. Place your cursor where you would like the reference to go and click on the Zotero Insert Citation Icon icon. The first time you do this a Document Preferences dialog box will appear allowing the choice of a particular citation style.

    Zotero document Preferences Window

    Zotero comes with the most common citation styles pre-installed, but if you need a style that isn't listed, you can add more using the Styles section of the Cite tab in the Zotero preferences.

    Zotero Styles Preferences Window

    Just click on the "Get additional styles" link, search for the style you need, and install it.

  2. Click OK and you will be returned to your document.  Ensure the cursor is in correct position for the in-text citation.  Another dialog box will appear to choose the citation(s) that need to appear in that spot. Should the Add/Edit Citation box not appear then clicking the "Insert Citation" icon Zotero Insert Citation Icon  will open it up.

    Zotero Add/Edit Citation Window

  3. Click on OK to return to your document. An in-text citation will appear where the cursor was originally, formatted according to the citation style you selected.

    Zotero in-text citation example

  4. When all the necessary citations have been inserted throughout the document, place your cursor at the position that the bibliography should appear. Then click on the "Insert Bibliography" icon Zotero Insert Bibliography Icon to generate the bibliography. It should now appear in the correct format for the citation style you chose.

    Zotero Bibliography Example

Creating a Bibliography from within Zotero

If all you need to do is create a list of references to email to someone or post to a website, it is not necessary to use the Word plugin for this. You can create a bibliography directly within Zotero.

  1. Select the references or collection to create the bibliography from and right click on the selected references and choose Create a Bibliography from Items...

    Zotero Create Bibliography from References Window

  2. Select the Style, Output Mode and Output Method and then follow the prompts depending on the selections you have made.

    Zotero Create Bibliography Options Window

Quality Assurance

Zotero facilitates the management and formatting of citations. However, it is vital that you check the citation data at the import stage and check the formatting of your in-text citations and the generated bibliography to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the data captured or the references being produced.

More Support for Zotero

For more assistance and support in using Zotero please refer to Zotero's support pages.

Contact us for assistance with Zotero questions and problems.

Creative Commons Licence
This work by Western Libraries Citation Management Working Group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.