BIOL 20700 Communicating Biology

What is Zotero?

Zotero is a free program that saves metadata (information about a book, article, or other resource) in order to create citations and bibliographies. Zotero can also organize your research and allows you to keep notes on what you've found. 

To use Zotero best, you'll want to download both the Zotero Standalone and the Zotero Connector for your browser. We'll go through the steps of downloading and setting them up, as well as integrating Zotero with Word. Once you've got it all set up, you'll be able to save research, cite sources, and create bibilographies with just a few clicks.

Installing Zotero Standalone

Our first step is to install the Zotero Standalone. Start by going to and clicking the "Download now" button on the right hand of the screen. On the right side of the screen, you'll see a "Download for Windows" (or something slightly different if you're on an Apple laptop). Click that button, NOT the "Zotero for Firefox" button.

Once the file downloads, open it to install Zotero. When you open Zotero, your Standalone should look something like this:

Downloading Zotero Connector

Once you've got the Zotero Standalone working, you'll need the Zotero Connector. Go back to the Zotero downloads page. Under the "Download Zotero" button, you'll see three additional buttons. 

These buttons are for the browser connector, a crucial part of using Zotero. You'll want to choose the browser you plan to use for your research. The browser you're currently using will already be highlighted. Once it's downloaded, be sure to open and install the browser connector. 

To make sure that the browser connector installed correctly, go to the Ithaca College Library's website  and search for anything in the search box. Once you're on the results screen, you should see a little folder either to the right or left of the address bar:

 If you don't see this folder, try restarting your browser and trying another search. If you still don't see it, your connector is probably not installed correctly. 


Adding Citation Styles

Zotero has the ability to cite resources in over 8,000 styles, but only a few are pre-loaded. To get extra styles, such as CSE (Council of Science Editors) you'll need to add them. To add styles, go to Zotero Standalone. Click on the gear icon and select "Preferences".

Once in the "Preferences" menu, select the "Cite" folder. Then select the "Styles" tab. The "Styles" tab is one place you can change which citation style you're using. You can do this at any time using Zotero. If you don't see the name of the style you need, you can click "Get additional styles" to see a full list of Zotero's options. When you get to that list, look for "Council of Science Editors, Name-Year". Click on it and install it. Once it's installed, you'll see it in this list and you can select it to make it your current style.

Adding Items to Zotero

Using the Connector
Once you've got Zotero working, you have several options for adding items to Zotero. The easiest is through the browser connector we downloaded. When you've found a resource, whether it's a book, article, or webpage, you'll see an icon near your address bar. The icon will appear differently depending on the type of resource: a book in the library's catalog will have a book icon, a journal or webpage will have a sheet of paper, and a list of results will have a folder. Click on that and your item should automatically be added to your Zotero. 

Add by Identifier
If you don't see the Zotero icon, or you have a paper copy of a resource, you may be able to use Zotero's "Add item by identifier" function. You can use this option if you can find an identifier like an ISBN (generally for books), DOI (digital object identifier, found on articles written in the past few years), or PMID (PubMed ID, found in items accessed through the PubMed Database). In Zotero Standalone, click the magic wand icon:

Enter your identifier, either manually or by cutting and pasting, and Zotero should automatically add the resource.

Drag-and-drop (PDF only)
If you have a PDF of an article, chapter, or other resource, Zotero may be able to automatically detect its information. Drag and drop the file into your Zotero Standalone and then right-click on it. From the menu that pops up, select "Retrieve metadata for PDF". 

The first time you try this, you may be asked to download a plug-in. Once that is installed, Zotero should be able to pull information from most PDFs. 

Manually Add
If all else fails, you can manually add items to Zotero by clicking the "New item" button in Zotero Standalone:
You'll need to select your resource type (blog post, book, etc) and then you'll be given the correct fields. If you don't see your resource type, click "More" under the other types to see a full list. You'll then need to type in all the information yourself. That may seem like a lot of work, but it will save you from typing it when you have to create a bibliography.


Using Zotero & Word

Zotero and Word work very well together to make your life easier, but getting it set up and learning to use it can be a little challenging. There are a lot of different versions of Word, so yours may look different - Zotero might show up in a different place, or have icons but no text, but it will work the same. 

Installing the Zotero Add-in
The first step to getting Word with Zotero working is to close Word entirely. You'll need to restart Word the first time you use it to get the Zotero Add-In. Before you restart it, click Zotero's gear icon and select "Preferences". Then click "Cite" and select the "Word Processors" tab:

You'll want to click "Install Microsoft Word Add-in" and also make sure the "Use classic Add Citation dialog" box is checked. Once that's all done, open Word. You should have access to Zotero through Word. It may appear as an additional tab marked "Zotero", or in the "Add-ins" tab. If you're using Word on a Mac and don't see either, try searching for it.

Adding Citations
Once you've got the Zotero tab in Word, it's easy to add citations. When you've written something you want to cite, simply click the "Zotero Insert Citation" or "Add/Edit Citation" icon. A mini Zotero window will pop up - just select your source and the citation will be added. You may see a red bar instead of a mini Zotero window, but you can switch that by clicking the downward arrow on that box and selecting the classic option. You can add as many citations as you need while you write your paper.

Creating a Bibliography
Once you've written your paper, just click on "Insert Bibliography" in the Zotero add-in menu. It will create a bibliography using all the sources you cited. If you add or remove citations after you've created the bibliography, don't worry - Zotero will automatically update the bibliography each time. 

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Editing Zotero Records

Sometimes when you add an item to Zotero, the information about it is either incomplete or incorrect. While this is pretty rare, you should take a moment to look at item records once you've downloaded them. The most common error is for parts of the record to be in all-caps:

If you leave it like this, the all-caps author will show up in your bibliography, which would be incorrect. Just click on the name to edit it.

The second most common error is a missing field. Sometimes Zotero can't pull a piece of information about an item. For example, below is a journal article, but Zotero didn't add the journal's name:

Again, you can fix this by clicking on that field and manually adding any information. Be careful that you type it in correctly - whatever you type is what will go in to your bibliography. 

Setting up an account

Setting up a Zotero account is completely optional. Having an account allows you to access all your items from any computer and to share folders and resources with others. To get an account go to Zotero's Registration page and fill out the form.
Once you've registered, add your account to Zotero Standalone. Click on the gear icon, then select "Preferences". Click on "Sync" and add your account information. Once that's done, you can click the green circular arrow on Zotero Standalone's main screen to sync your account, which will allow you to access it from anywhere.

Zotero Icons

Some versions of Word or Open Office only include icons in the Zotero menu. Here's what they mean:

Zotero & Other Writing Tools

Zotero and Microsoft Word integrate to make citation and bibliographies easier, but even if you don't have Word, Zotero can still help you.

OpenOffice and LibreOffice are free alternatives to Microsoft Word. They are very similar to Word and have largely the same functionality. Zotero connects with both to work just like with Word (easy adding of citations, automatic generation of bibliographies). They are easy to download and use.

Google Docs & Other
With other writing tools, you'll have to do your in-text citations manually, but Zotero can still make bibliographies easier. One way to create a bibliography is to select all your items in Zotero and then right-click and select "Create a bibliography from items". You'll then select your format and where to send the bibliography (I recommend the clipboard). You can then paste the bibliography into any document.
You can also add individual items by dragging-and-dropping. Simply grab an item in Zotero Standalone and pull it over to your document. It should give you a bibliographic entry in your default format.

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