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Using Zotero

Learn Zotero

You can learn to use Zotero in 1-1.5 hours by following the Zotero Citation Management online SkillShop. Once you've completed the online SkillShop, you will earn a completion badge through Badgr.


Create Collections

Before you start collecting citations, take a minute to consider how you are going to organize your Zotero library. 

Why would I do this? 

Organizing your Zotero library will make it easier for you to quickly locate and use your research material. 

The most basic way to organize your Zotero library is by creating collections. 

How to create a collection

Create a new collection by clicking the folder icon above the library pane. 

Create a subcollection by right clicking on an existing collection and selecting New Subcollection.



When a collection is selected any items you save will automatically be filed into that collection.

Items added to collections are also automatically added to My Library.



Add Tags

Tags are keywords you can assign to items that allow you to characterize items and group them together outside of collections.

Tags can be imported from databases along with citation information or they can be added manually.

All tags are searchable through the Zotero search box.

Disable Automatic Tagging

In General Preferences, uncheck the box next to "Automatically tag items with keywords and subject headings."

It is highly recommended that you disable automatic tagging. 

After you disable automatic tagging, your library will only contain tags that you add manually. 

Manually Add Tags

To tag items yourself, select an item in Zotero and then select the 'Tags' tab in the column on the right.

Click on 'Add.' Enter the word or phrase you want to use and press Enter.

Tags can be renamed by clicking on them and deleted by using the 'minus' button.

Your tags will now appear in Zotero's bottom left window pane.



Adding Multiple Items to a Tag

You can add items in bulk to an already existing tag by selecting all of the items within a collection that you want to assign that tag and then dragging them onto to tag in the Tag Pane.        


Color-coded tags

You can assign colors to your tags. Zotero has 9 built-in colors, and up to 6 tags in your library can be assigned a color. 

Right click on the tag you want to assign a color. 

Choose "Assign color" from the popup menu. 

Select the color you want and click "set color."


Colored tags appear next to the item title. 

Attach Notes

To add notes to items in your Zotero library, click on the notes tab in the right pane.

When you click on the notes tab, you can then click "add" to create notes. You can create many notes for a single item. 


Create Notes while Browsing the Web

With Zotero for Firefox (not available in Zotero standalone), you can also create notes directly from webpages you visit in Firefox.

Highlight the text you want to copy into a note. 

Right-click (ctrl-click in OS X) and hover over “Zotero” in the pop-up menu

Select “Create Zotero Item and Note from Selection”.

You will now have a new “Web Page” item in your library for the visited webpage, with a note containing the selected text.



Check Citations for Accuracy 

Although, most of the citation information that Zotero captures will be correct, it is always a good idea to check every item's author, title, date, etc.,and then to correct and/or add data.

APA Style Title Case

Note that Zotero's output for APA style does not change title casing to sentence style. To change titles that are not in sentence case for APA or other styles with that requirement, right-click on the title > Transform text > Sentence case.



Correcting Information 

All fields can be edited by clicking on the field.

A blank box will appear for you to type in additional information or edits like the full first name of an author. 

Add Citations from HOLLIS+

Multiple Sources 

When viewing a search results screen in the HOLLIS tab of  HOLLIS+, Zotero will display next to the  to the right of the Firefox address bar.

In the Standalone version you will see these icons in the address bar.

Click the folder icon, and a small window will open.

Select which items you'd like to save or Select All, and click OK.

Note that the items are being added to the previously chosen collection.

Note: Bulk adding to Zotero from HOLLIS+ is only recommended for the HOLLIS tab and not for the Articles or Everything tabs.

Bulk adding from those tabs may result in incomplete metadata for journal articles as well as pdfs not being automatically downloaded for journal articles.

For correct metadata and pdfs you should go directly to the source of the full text and add to Zotero from there.

Single Sources

When viewing an individual book record in HOLLIS+, Zotero displays a small blue book icon Book Icon next to the Zotero Icon to the right of the Firefox address bar.

Click on that icon to save the book to Zotero.



Journal Articles 

Just as with HOLLIS+, when viewing a search results screen in a database Zotero will display Folder Icon next to the  to the right of the Firefox address bar.

In the Standalone version you will see these icons in the address bar. Click the icon, and a small window will open.

Select which items you'd like to save, and click OK.

You can also save an article when viewing its record or abstract page. When on a page for an individual article Zotero will display an icon of a piece of paper next to the  to the right of the Firefox address bar.

Zotero will automatically download the PDF Full Text if it's available.

If you have difficulty opening the pdf, try right clicking on it and selecting Open in External Viewer.


Web Pages

Zotero for Firefox

Zotero can recognize descriptive information or metadata from many websites.

To save a website to Zotero just click on the icon next to the Zotero Icon to the right of the address bar.

The metadata and a snapshot of the page will be saved to Zotero.


Zotero Standalone 

When viewing a website using Zotero Standalone, right click on the page to add it to Zotero.



Save pdfs already on your computer to Zotero by dragging and dropping them a PDF into a collection.

Automatically Retrieve Metadata

Right click on the file in Zotero and select Retrieve Metadata for PDF.

Zotero will search through a list of sources for the article, book chapter, or report and update the metadata for the item.



Manually Add Metadata

If retrieving metadata does not work, you will need to manually add the information to the item.

Right click and choose Create Parent Item from Selected Item.


Now, you can fill in the information for the item manually.

Make sure you change the item type to the correct entry as this controls how the citation is formatted.


Select a Citation Style

The first time you insert a citation in a document you will be required to choose a citation style.

You can change the citation style at anytime.

Screenshot showing the Document Properties dialog box to select a citation style


If you do not see the style you want listed, you will need to click on Cancel and go into Zotero's Preferences.

Under Cite select Styles. Click on Get Additional Styles


Find the style you want and click on the title. Click on Install.

This style will now be listed when you go back into Word to install the first citation.


Insert a Citation 

Open Word and place your cursor where you'd like to add a citation, select the Add-Ins tab if using Windows, and click Zotero Insert Citation .

Add Page Numbers & More

Use the page drop-down menu to add page, figure, paragraph numbers and more.

To add text to the beginning or end of your citation use the Prefix and Suffix boxes.

If you want to cite multiple sources together click on the Multiple Sources button to select multiple items together.



Edit Citation 

To add page numbers or other information to your citation, place your cursor within the citation and then click the Zotero Edit Citation button.

Correct Errors

All metadata errors in a citation should be corrected in Zotero, not in Word.

Only use the Zotero Edit Citation function in the Zotero toolbar if you are making changes like those depicted above.

After you have gone into Zotero and updated the citation, use the Zotero Refesh button in Word to update your document.

Create Bibliography from Citations 

After adding citations to your document, click Insert Bibliography.

Zotero will insert a fully-formatted and alphabetized bibliography in whatever style you have previously chosen

Annotated Bibliographies

You can use Zotero to create an Annotated APA or Chicago Bibliography.

Download a new style from the Zotero Style Repository.

APA: Download the style "American Psychological Association 6th edition (annotated bibliography with abstract)."

Chicago: Download the style "Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition (note, annotated bibliography)."

Open your Zotero Library and select the item that you want to annotate.

In the "Info" tab on the right-hand pane, write the annotation in the "Extra" field.

Repeat this step for each item that you want to include in the annotated bibliography.

Open your word processing document and follow the standard process for inserting a citation into your document.

When prompted to choose your citation style, select the Annotated Chicago or APA style that you just downloaded.

Standalone Bibliographies 

To create a standalone bibliography, use Zotero's Quick Copy feature.

First, set a default style used for copying and pasting citations.

In Zotero's Preferences, in the Export tab, choose a Default Output Format.

Then, select and drag the items you'd like to add to your bibliography into your document.


Create a Group Library 

There are two ways to create a group library: 

Option 1:   Click the New Group icon in Zotero. You will then be asked to log in to your online account.

Option 2:   Login to your online account and click on Create a New Group.

Name Your Group

Choose a unique name for your group and make sure to choose the appropriate level of privacy.

  • Private Membership: Only you and those you choose to invite to your group to be able to view the group's research.
  • Public, Closed Membership or Public, Open Membership: These options allow you to share your research with everyone, but control who can add to your research. 

View Group Libraries

Your group libraries will automatically sync to your Zotero account and will appear below your Zotero Library. 

You can drag and drop items between private and group libraries.

Anything added by any members of the Group Library including tags and notes will appear for all members.

Invite Members

Click Members Settings and then Send More Invitations.

Help those who don't already use Zotero by including a link to this guide (http://guides.library.harvard.edu/zotero) in the optional personal message.

Your collaborators will receive an e-mail inviting them to your group.

Storage Limits

An important consideration: 

Any pdfs stored within a Group Library will count against the 300MB storage limit of the owner of that Group Library.