Much of the information, images, and writing in this guide were built from Zotero’s own documentation. For more knowledge, check out their support page.
Zotero is a free, easy-to-use tool that helps you collect, organize, annotate, cite, and share your research. It stores the citations to books, journal articles and more that you find on the web or through the library, creating a personalized database of information sources that you can organize with tags or keywords. You can share your Zotero database with others, so everyone on the project can add to and use citations. A Microsoft Word plug-in enables you find, insert and format the citations in your Zotero database as you write.
However, we also recommend McGill University Library’s excellent Zotero playlist on YouTube:
Citations and Bibliographies
Zotero enables citations and bibliographies at the click of a button.
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 and drag them into any text field. Zotero will automatically create a formatted bibliography for you. To copy citations instead of references, hold down Shift at the start of the drag.
To configure your Quick Copy preferences, open the Zotero preferences menu and select Export. From this tab you can do the following:
Set the default export format
Set up site-specific export settings
Choose whether you want Zotero to include HTML markup when copying
You can also use Quick Copy keyboard shortcuts to copy citations and bibliographies to your system clipboard and then paste them into documents. Default shortcuts are Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-C (bibliography) and Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-A (citations).
Right-Click to Create Citation/Bibliography
To create a bibliography or a citations list in Zotero, highlight one or more references and then right-click (or control-click on Macs) to select “Create Bibliography from Selected Item(s)…”. Then select a citation style for your citation/bibliography format and choose either to create a list of Citations/Notes or a Bibliography. Then choose one of the following four ways to create your citation/bibliography:
Save as RTF will allow you to save the bibliography as a rich text file.
Save as HTML will allow you to save the bibliography as a HTML file for viewing in a web browser. This format will also embed metadata allowing other Zotero users viewing the document to capture bibliographic information.
Copy to Clipboard will allow you to save the bibliography to your clipboard to paste into any text field.
Print will send your bibliography straight to a printer.
Don’t see the style you need? You can also install styles from the Zotero Style Repository by clicking on the “Get additional styles…” option in the Zotero Style Manager (in the Cite pane of Zotero preferences). Search for the style you want and click the style title to install it into Zotero. You can also visit the Zotero Style Repository webpage in Firefox or Chrome with the Zotero Connector plugin installed to install styles directly into Zotero.
The repository allows you to search by style name, and filter by style type and academic field of study. By checking the box “Show only unique styles”, duplicate styles that share the exact same format are hidden (e.g. for the journal-specific styles “Nature”, “Nature Biotechnology”, “Nature Chemistry”, etc., only the independent “Nature” style is shown).
Write N Cite
Of the different ways to automatically generate bibliographies (as well as in-text citations and footnotes), the easy-to-use word processor plugins are the most powerful. These plugins, available for Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, and Google Docs, create dynamic bibliographies: insert a new in-text citation in your manuscript, and the bibliography will be automatically updated to include the cited item. Correct the title of an item in your Zotero library and with a click of a button the change will be incorporated in your documents.
Just need a quick citation? Don’t need to make a whole library of citations? You may prefer ZoteroBib or ZBib.
ZoteroBib is a new online tool from the makers of Zotero, similar to EasyBib or BibMe, that quickly formats citations for your bibliography. You can type in a title to search for a citation, or paste in a URL, DOI, ISBN, or PubMed or arXiv ID. ZoteroBib will then give you a citation in the style of your choice, ready to copy and paste into your document.