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Teachers Edtech: Zotero

Find out about WAB's tech systems, tools and subscriptions and how to use them

Why use Zotero?

For our students learning citations and references we recommend NoodleTools. However for teachers who are undertaking courses at a graduate level, we suggest Zotero in combination with the Word plug in to be a very powerful option. Please contact Nadine if you need any help getting started.

About Zotero

Zotero logo 

Zotero is a free, open source desktop application that allows you to collect, organize, cite, and share research. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. This guide has information on how to get started with using Zotero, from installing the application and its plugins, to adding sources to your library, to generating in-text citations and reference lists. 

Install Zotero

Go to, click on "Log in," and register for a free account. 

Go to to download the Zotero desktop application and browser extension (Zotero Connector) for your Internet browser (Chrome, Firefox, or Safari). 

Zotero download page

Sync Zotero

Once you have the Zotero desktop application downloaded to your computer, you can set up syncing by signing in using your Zotero username and password. Syncing allows you to access your Zotero library from any computer. Zotero provides you with 300 MB of free storage. You can purchase additional storage space on the Zotero website. 

1. Click on Preferences under the Edit menu:

Screenshot of Zotero edit menu


2. Click Sync and enter your Zotero username and password, and click Set Up Syncing:

Screenshot of Zotero sync settings


3. Click on the "Sync with" icon in the upper right-hand corner to sync your Zotero library:

Screenshot of sync icon in Zotero

Adding items to your library

There are several ways you can add items to your Zotero library. 

1. PDF files: If you already have PDF files saved to your computer that you'd like to add to your Zotero library, you can drag them into the desktop application. 


2. Use the Zotero browser extension: Click on the Zotero icon in your Internet browser to automatically import the citation information for an item to your library. The Zotero icon in your browser will change depending on what type of item you are looking at (journal article, book, video, etc.), but it should always say "Save to Zotero" when you hover over it. When you are looking at a journal article, the icon will appear as a white sheet of paper. When viewing a list of items, such as search results, the "Save to Zotero" icon will appear as a small folder and you will be able to select multiple items.

Screenshot of Zotero browser extension icon

If the full text of an article is available, Zotero should automatically save the PDF as an attachment. To see files that are attached to an item in Zotero, click on the arrow next to the item:

Screenshot of attachment view in Zotero


3. Add an RIS/BibText file: LibrarySearch and most databases will offer the option to export a citation in a particular file format that works with tools like Zotero. Open the file in Zotero to add it to your library. 


4. Manually add a source: Click on the "New Item" icon and select the type of item you are trying to add (additional options are available under "More"). Then you can manually enter the information about the item (title, author, etc.).

Screenshot of add item menu in Zotero

Editing item metadata

After adding an item to your Zotero library, you will want to review the metadata for the item and make any corrections if necessary. The metadata is the information about the item you added, such as the title, author, publication date, etc. You can edit an item's metadata in the "Info" pane on the right side of the screen. 

Click on any metadata field to edit it. You can right-click on the "Title" field to change the title capitalization to title case or sentence case, depending on the requirements of whatever citation style you will be using. 


Screenshot of Info pane for editing metadata of an item in Zotero

Creating folders

You can organize your library by creating folders, which are called collections in Zotero. You might find it helpful to organize items by theme/topic or by a specific research project you are working on. You can create a new collection by clicking on the "New Collection" icon or right-clicking on "My Library" and clicking on "New Collection." 

Screenshot of New Collection icon in Zotero

You can also create subfolders by right-clicking on a collection and clicking on "New Subcollection." Right-clicking on a collection will also give you the option to rename or delete a collection. 

Adding notes and tags

You can add notes and tags to items in your Zotero library. There are tabs for notes and tags in the right-hand pane next to the "Info" tab. 

Screenshot showing Notes tab with "Add" button

Tags provide another way for you to organize your library. You can search by tags using the "All fields & tags" search box. Some databases will automatically provide tags (or keywords) when you add an item to your library. You can disable automatic tagging by going into your Zotero preferences. 

Citing sources using Zotero

There are several ways that you can generate citations using Zotero. You can create bibliographies directly from Zotero, or you can use the Zotero Microsoft Word plugin. You can also generate citations using Zotero in Google Docs. Remember to make sure that all the information about the items you'd like to cite is correct in Zotero so your citations will be generated correctly!

Copy citations from Zotero

Bibliographies can be created from a single item, several items, or entire collections. Right-click on any item(s) you would like to generate a citation for and click on "Create Bibliography from Item(s)..." (or "Create Bibliography from Collection..." if you are creating citations for items in a collection): 

Screenshot of create bibliography from item menu

This will give you the option to specify your citation style, allowing you to choose from options like APA, Chicago, or MLA style. Then you will pick which output mode you would like. Clicking on "Citations" will generate an in-text citation while clicking on "Bibliography" will generate a full citation. Lastly, you will pick your output method: You can save your citations as an RTF or HTML file, copy it to your clipboard (and then paste it into a document of your choice), or print your citations.

Cite in Microsoft Word

The Microsoft Word plugin should be installed automatically when you download Zotero. You may need to restart Microsoft Word if you have it open already. The plugin also works with LibreOffice. 

You should see a Zotero tab in Microsoft Word. Click here to see your options for adding citations and a bibliography to your Word document. You will need to have the Zotero desktop application open while you are using the Microsoft Word plugin. 

Screenshot of Zotero tab in Microsoft Word

Click on "Add/Edit Citation" to add your in-text citations as you write your paper. The first time you do this, there will be a popup asking you which citation style you want to use. Then you can search for the item you want to cite. You can search by title, author, or any other information associated with the item. 

Screenshot of search box for Zotero Word plugin

Select the item you want to cite and then press the enter key to finish inserting the in-text citation into your document. 

Click on "Add/Edit Bibliography" to create a bibliography of all the items you have cited throughout your paper. If you need to make any edits to the citation, make the corrections in Zotero and then click on "Refresh" to update the bibliography in your Word document.  

Creating groups in Zotero

If you are collaborating on a project with other people you can use Zotero to create a group library. To create a new group click on the "New Library" icon and click on "New Group..."

Screenshot of icon to click on to create a new group in Zotero


This will take you to the Zotero website in your web browser. Login with your Zotero username and password. Once you are logged in, you can pick a name for your group and choose the membership settings:

Screen shot of "Create a New Group" options

Keep in mind that open public groups do not allow file sharing. If you want to share PDF attachments with others, you should create a closed public group or a private group. Any file storage will count towards the storage space of the person creating the group library.

After creating the group, you can invite members by going to "Members Settings," clicking on "Send more invitations," and entering the email addresses of your group members. 

The group should appear in your Zotero desktop application under "Group Libraries":

Example group shown under Group Libraries

You can drag any items from your personal Zotero library or add items directly to the group library to share them with your group members. You will need to click the sync icon in order for all group members to see added items.

About Juris-M

Juris-M is based on, but separate from, Zotero. It adds support for adding multilingual materials to your Zotero library. You may want to consider using Juris-M if your research materials are in multiple languages or if you write in English but primarily conduct research in another language. 

Our thanks to Adam Lisbon, Assistant Professor and Japanese & Korean Studies Librarian at the University of Colorado Boulder for allowing us to share this content that he developed for a Multilingual Reference Management guide.

Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) License

This guide has a Creative Commons BY-NC License.

CC BY-NC license logo

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

This page is created based on the guide from the University of Oregon