Zotero Reference Manager

What is Zotero?

Zotero is software that allows you to easily collect, manage, and save bibliographic information about the items you find on the Web. It also works with word processing programs to help you easily cite your sources as you write.

Which Zotero?

There are two versions of Zotero. If you are a Firefox user and want to use Zotero within your browser, you can download Zotero for Firefox.

If you want to use Zotero with another browser, or if you want to use it with Firefox as a free-standing application, you'll need to download Zotero Standalone for your platform of choice (Windows or Mac). Make sure that you also download the appropriate browser extension for whichever browser you normally use (Chrome, Firefox, or Safari).

Both versions of Zotero and the browser extensions can be downloaded from Zotero.org.

The screenshots on this guide show Zotero Standalone with Chrome on a Mac. Things may look a little different depending on your platform and browser.

Adding Items to Zotero

When you visit a page that Zotero recognizes as a bibliographic item, such as an item in a library catalog or database, an icon will appear in your browser's toolbar. The appearance of the icon depends on the type of resource being viewed, with the most common being the book icon and the lined page icon representing a journal article.

Zotero book icon

Zotero journal article icon

If you're on a web page that Zotero can't identify as a particular type, you'll see a generic page icon. Clicking on this will add a basic entry (often just the URL and the date accessed) for the page to your Zotero library, along with a snapshot of the page.

Zotero web page icon

When you click on the icon, information about the item you are viewing will be automatically entered into your Zotero library.

If you need to add an item for which you have no online record, you can add the item manually using the "new item" button (the green circle with a plus sign), and choosing the type of resource that you want to add.

Zotero item-type menu

Once you have selected the appropriate document type, details about the document may be entered in the right-hand panel.

Zotero data entry screen

When you save an item to Zotero, look at the data that is being saved. Zotero may have missed something that you need (like the abstract) or recorded data incorrectly (e.g., forenames and surnames mixed up, title in all caps). It's easier to fix mistakes like this when you're collecting the data that it is to go back later when you're trying to put together your bibliography.

Creating Bibliographies

Once you have items saved in Zotero, you can create a bibliography from your items by selecting the items you want to include, right clicking, and choosing "Create Bibliography from Selected Items."

This will open a dialog window that will ask you what style you want to use and what you want to do with the bibliography.  If you choose "Save to clipboard," you can then paste the bibliography into a Word document.

Choosing a citation style

Shortcut: If you're dealing with a small number of references, you can just drag-and-drop citations from Zotero into your word processing program. If you use this method, make sure you check the formatting. Italics and hanging indents may not come through.

Changing Styles

You may need to use different bibliographic styles for different classes. Zotero lets you switch between styles easily. Your citation information is saved in a neutral format and can be converted on-the-fly to whatever style you need. From a single Zotero library, you can generate bibliographies in any of Zotero's thousands of styles.

In the "preferences" pane of Zotero, you can choose a default style, which you can change at any time.

Choosing a default style in Zotero

If you need a stlye that isn't listed in this window, click "Get additional styles..." to visit Zotero's massive style repository, where you can download any style you need.

In-Text Citations

Zotero can work with your word processing program (Microsoft Word or OpenOffice) to help you with in-text citations.

Open your Zotero preferences and look at the "Cite" tab to make sure you have the correct add-in for the word processing software you're using. If you're using Zotero for Firefox, you'll need to download the add-ins.


When the add-in is installed, Zotero tools will be available from within your word processor. The appearance of these tools differs based on software versions and platform. The screenshots below show Zotero Standalone being used with Microsoft Word on a Mac.

In Word for Mac, you should see an "add-in" tab within Word. The Zotero tools are displayed as icons in this tab. The icons are hard to decipher, but if you mouse over them you can see explanations of what they do. You'll need to have Zotero open to use these tools, even though you'll be working primarily in Word.


Probably the most important tool is "insert citation." This allows you to add in-text citations as you write. When you click this button, you will be presented with a search window where you can search for and select the paper you want to cite. Zotero will then add an in-text citation to the paper. (The first time you use this tool in a given document, you will first be asked to choose a style, then you'll see the search box.)


It is best to add all of your in-text citations with Zotero. Zotero then knows what you have cited, so when you finish your paper you can just click the "Insert Bibliography" button and Zotero will create a reference list consisting only of those items you have cited in-text.

Zotero On Multiple Computers

Since Zotero is installed software, it lives on a particular machine.  If you routinely use multiple computers, you will probably want to sign up for a Zotero account. This will allow you to sync your Zotero library across computers, or to view your library directly on the Zotero website. You can set your Zotero client to sync automatically in the preferences panel under "Sync."

Contact Us

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Ron Gilmour

Web Services Librarian
(607) 274-3674
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Abby Juda

Natural Sciences Librarian
(607) 274-3889
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Laura Kuo

Health Sciences Librarian
(607) 274-1197

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Getting Help

Zotero does far more than is described in this brief summary. Abundant documentation is available at the Zotero website. This includes a number of screencast tutorials and information on how to:
  • organize your Zotero library using folders and tags
  • integrate Zotero with your word processing software
  • search within your library
  • add notes and attachments to your references