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Research Help

What is Zotero?

Zotero (pronounced "zoh-TAIR-oh") is an open-access, easy-to-use reference management tool that serves as your personal research assistant and helps you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. 

Zotero is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

This guide will assist you with:

  • Downloading and Installing Zotero
  • Managing your Zotero library
  • Creating bibliographies and citations

Installing Zotero

1. Go to 

2. Download Zotero 6.0 - Available for Mac, Windows, and Linux

  • The download page should automatically detect your device's system but can switch as needed
  • It's best to be using the browser you will be using for literature research (Chrome, Firefox, etc.)
  • Unfortunately, the Zotero is currently not compatible with Chromebooks and Office 365 devices 

3. Follow the install directions

  • Make sure Microsoft Office Programs are closed (e.g. Word)
  • Open the downloaded Zotero file (.exe or .dmg).
  • Open the Zotero Program to ensure it's installed properly 
  • Open MS Word and confirm Zotero is in the toolbar.

4. Install the browser connector (add-on/extension)

  • Browser may restart after installation
  • You should notice a "Z" icon on the right side of your toolbar (can also pin it by clicking the "extensions" icon on the toolbar)

Zotero is laid out in three panels or columns:

  • Left column/panel: Organization - My Library, along with folders you create - by subject, item type, idea, etc.
  • Center column/panel: The list of items in My Library (all references) or the references in the folders you created. Can access the source if attached from here. 
  • Right column: Detailed information about a specific reference you selected in the center column. Can edit as needed. 

screenshot of a Zotero library

Preferences & Syncing 

Most settings can be adjusted in Zotero's Preferences:

  1. Open Zotero.
  2. Find your preferences menu
    1. On Mac, go to Zotero > Preferences menu
    2. On Windows, go to Edit > Preferences menu

Recommended Settings to Review:

  • Under General, check the Automatically attach associated PDFs checkbox.
  • Under Export, choose the appropriate citation style (e.g., APA) for your Default Output Format. (You will still be able to choose different citation styles later.)
  • To Sync, first:
    • Set up a free Zotero account
    • Go back to the Zotero preferences menu as detailed above
    • Select the Sync tab 
    • Enter your Zotero account info and sync preferences.
      • This will help back up your content in cloud storage, help with multiple devices, and allow you to share folders with others. 

Zotero not working properly?

1. Make sure Zotero is open on your computer

2. Make sure the browser extension is downloaded to the current one being used

3. Restart your browser after installing

Visit for additional troubleshooting installation help.

Managing Your Library

Zotero Connector

The great feature of the connector is that you can be on any webpage, search engine, or library database and save any source to your Zotero library. 

1. Depending on the online source you are looking at, the Zotero plug-in will display differently:

  • - Will save a screenshot of a webpage
  •  - Will save a screenshot of a webpage with embedded metadata 
  •     - Will save the article in HTML and/or PDF format
  • - Will save the book in HTML and/or PDF format
  •  - Will allow you to save multiple search results 

2. A save box will pop up at the top right and ask what Zotero folder the article should be saved to. If there is only one folder available, the source will save to that folder.

3. Open Zotero and access the source information as well as the source itself. 

Importing Sources

Adding sources from library course readings or other Canvas modules is possible by manually uploading said articles/sources.

  1. Open the Zotero program
  2. Select the green “New Item” () button at the top of the center column.
  3. Select the desired item type from the drop-down menu (e.g. book, book chapter, article, etc)
    • An empty space (place holder) for the item type will now appear
    • Enter the bibliographic information in the right panel
    • The empty space will change with the new information.
    • Attach the source through the "add attachment" icon. You can attach links or saved files. 
  4. OR To add a PDF (already on your computer) to Zotero:
    • Drag and drop PDF files into your Zotero main window or click "store copy of file" under the "new file" icon.
    • Right-click on the PDF you have added.
    • Click "Retrieve metadata for PDF" (if this is the first time you are doing this, you will need to install the pdf2text tool).
    • If you get a green checkmark in the resulting window, you're all set! Double-check the metadata that Zotero has found.
    • If you get a red X, Zotero was not able to retrieve metadata for your file. Enter the information by hand by right-clicking and choosing "Create parent item" for your PDF.

What are Collections?

Collections are folders in your Zotero library. By default, any source that you save will display in the "My Library" section.

  • Using the Folder + icon, you can create new collections (folders) within My Library.
  • To create a new collection, click the New Collection icon (looks like a folder with a plus sign).
    • Click and drag items in your library into collections.
    • You can also create sub-collections by right-clicking on a particular collection.
    • An item can live in multiple folders.
    • Items removed from a collection will still be available in your Zotero library.
    • If you remove an item from the main "My Library" collection, it will disappear from every other folder.

What are Tags?

Tags are descriptors you can apply to individual sources in your Zotero library.

Tags are useful for:

  • searching for items.
  • Tags may be used instead of, or in addition to, Collections.
  • Sometimes, tags will be downloaded automatically when you save a source.

To use tags: 

  • Click on an item.
  • From the right panel, click Tags.
  • Click Add.
  • Write in your tag and hit return.
  • TIP: use words that are not in the title of the article in your tags!

What are Notes?

You can take notes directly on individual items in your Zotero library. This can make it easier to keep track of the source of quotes, notes, and summaries. Notes are also searchable and there is no limit to how many notes you have on an individual item. 

How to: 

  • Click on an item.
  • In the right panel (or lower panel in stacked mode), click Notes.
  • Click "Add" to start a new note.
  • Take your notes.


  • Open the source in a new tab.
  • At the top center section, choose the desired tool.
  • Take notes or highlight a section.
  • EX: 


Citations & Bibliographies

How to:  

  1. Highlight the citations you want to include in your bibliography in the Zotero center column (press the shift key while selecting multiple sources).
  2. Right-click the highlighted list of sources.
  3. Select a function named "Create Bibliography from Selected Items."
  4. Select your citation style, for example, "American Psychological Association."
  5. Choose the Output Method, Save as RTF.
  6. Save it in a file folder of your choice on your device.
  7. Open it with any Word processing program -- and your bibliography will appear formatted to your citation style!


  1. "Save as HTML" will allow you to save the bibliography as an 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.

  2. "Save to Clipboard" will allow you to save the bibliography to your clipboard to paste into any text field.

  3. "Print" will send your bibliography straight to a printer.

Zotero can also help you create annotated bibliographies in multiple citation styles. Be sure to have your desktop application open to install the appropriate citation versions.

1. Go to "edit" in your top menu options and select "advanced search". 



2. Select "cite" from the top options.  Once there, click on "get additional styles" and choose the appropriate style for annotated bibliographies. Examples:

Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition, Note, with Annotated Bibliography

American Psychological Association, 7th Edition, Annotated Bibliography

American Psychological Association, 7th Edition, with Abstract

Once you have downloaded the intended annotated bibliography style, creating a references list is very similar to a standard bibliography with a few added steps.

In the "info" section of the Zotero metadata field, you will add the reference description before creating a reference list.

PLEASE NOTE: Copying the list to your clipboard will sometimes cause an error in the indentations of the list. To bypass this issue, save the bibliography as an RTF document and then open it in your word processing software. 

How to:

  • In Zotero, right-click on the desired item and choose "Create Bibliography" from Item.
  • Choose the desired citation style.
  • Under Output Mode, click "Citations" for in-text citations or "Notes" for footnotes.
  • Under "Output Method", click "Copy to Clipboard".
  • Click ok.
  • Paste it into your document.
  • Edit your citation for completeness and accuracy.

This video will walk you through how to add citations to a Microsoft Word document, using the Zotero Plugin. 

Set a default citation style:

Zotero has 12 default citation styles, but you may download others (over 8300 styles available). To set your default style:

  1. Go to Zotero "Options/Preferences"
  2. In the new window select the "Export Tab"
  3. Select style from the "Item Format" drop-down menu
  4. Click Ok
    NOTE: If the required style is not on the list, follow the directions below:

Download other citation styles

  1. Find a style on this page,
  2. Select the style and download the file
  3. When you open the file, Zotero will add it to your default style options.

Check out the Zotero Support Page for more tips & tricks as well as advanced users options: 

Zotero now supports RSS Feeds!

To find a feed:

  • Search for a journal through either Google or through the library's A-Z journals list
  • Usually under the "share" options or through the RSS icon (pictured below), copy the URL associated with the feed. If the page itself is an RSS feed, the URL in the address bar should suffice.
    •  File:Generic Feed-icon.svg - Wikimedia Commons

To set up a feed:

  • Go to your Zotero library and click on the "New Group or Feed" icon New Group or Feed Icon, and select "New Feed".
  • If you have one feed you will select "From URL" or if you have an OPML file for a group of feeds, select "From OPML" and upload the document.
  • It will take a minute or so, but once you edit your feed preferences and add the feed, it will appear under "Group Libraries" in a new collection pane.