Getting Started with Zotero

Zotero is a free reference management tool that allows one to collect, organize, cite, and share research sources. Currently, Zotero is available as an extension for Mozilla Firefox. Alternatively, you can download Zotero onto your computer (Windows or Mac) and use it as a standalone native application.

Before going any further, watch the video below to learn the basics.

[video_lightbox_youtube video_id=”KK9J3ibHyRI&rel=false” width=”640″ height=”480″ anchor=””]

Old Way to Perform In-text Citations

[video_lightbox_youtube video_id=”mEQ0wuf54qM&rel=false” width=”640″ height=”480″ anchor=””]

New Way to Perform In-text Citations

[video_lightbox_youtube video_id=”o8gaG59rr9M&rel=false” width=”640″ height=”480″ anchor=””]


The left column includes My Library, which contains all items. Clicking the button above the left column creates a new collection, a folder into which items relating to a specific project or topic can be placed. Think of collections like playlists in a music player: items in collections are aliases (or “links”) to a single copy of the item in your library.

Learn more…


Items can be assigned tags. Tags are named by the user. An item can be assigned as many tags as is needed. Tags are added or removed with the tag selector at the bottom of the left column or through the Tags tab of any item in the right column. Up to 6 tags can be assigned colors and numbers. Numbered tags can be quickly added or removed using the corresponding number keys on your keyboard.

Learn more…

Quick Searches

Quick searches show items whose metadata, tags, or content match the search terms and are performed from the Zotero toolbar. Clicking the spyglass icon to the left of the search box opens the Advanced Search window, allowing for more complex or narrow searches.

Learn more…

Saved Searches

Advanced searches can be saved in the left column. They are similar to collections, but will update with new matching items automatically.

Learn more…


Items can have notes, files, and links attached to them. These attachments appear in the middle column underneath their parent item. Attachments can be shown or hidden by clicking the arrow or plus sign next to their parent item.

Learn more…


Rich-text notes can be attached to any item through the Notes tab in the right column. They can be edited in the right column or in their own window. Click the New Standalone Note button in the toolbar to create a note without attaching it to an item.

Learn more…

Capturing Items

If you are using Zotero for Firefox or the Chrome or Safari connector, it is simple to create new items from information available on the internet. If a capture icon appears in the address bar, Zotero can automatically create an item of the appropriate type and populate the metadata fields. If a full-text PDF is available, it will usually be automatically attached to the item. Importing from some websites will also attach useful links (e.g. to the PubMed entry) or Supplemental Data files.

Learn more…

Saving a Webpage

Clicking the Create New Item from Current Page button in the Zotero toolbar creates a Web Page item and saves the page as an attached snapshot. This saves the page itself as an item with very limited metadata. If you have a choice, we recommend that you always use the URL bar icon instead.

Learn more…

Word Processor Integration

Zotero’s Word and OpenOffice plugins allow users to insert citations directly from their word processing software. This makes citing multiple pages, sources, or otherwise customizing citations a breeze. In-text citations, footnotes and endnotes are all supported.

Learn more…

Automatic Bibliographies

Using the word processor plugins makes it possible to switch citation styles for the entire document at once or automatically generate a bibliography from the items cited.

Learn more…


Use Zotero at multiple computers with syncing. Library items are synced through the Zotero servers (unlimited storage), while attachment syncing can use the Zotero servers or your own WebDAV service to sync files such as PDFs, images or audio/video.

Learn more…


Zotero users can create collaborative or interest groups. Shared group libraries make it possible to collaboratively manage research sources and materials, both online and through the Zotero client. can be the hub of all your project group’s research, communication and organization.

Learn more…

Zotero for Mobile

The developers of Zotero have not yet released a native application for mobile devices (smart phones, tables). However, there are third-party applications you can download and use to access your sources on the go.

I have created a page dedicated to Zotero for mobile devices. Click here to for more information.


In some cases, the definitions above were taken ipsis literis from the Zotero site.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *