Zotero is a powerful open-source tool for collecting and organizing research information and sources. Zotero allows you to attach PDFs, notes and images to your citations, organize them into collections for different projects, and create bibliographies.

This guide will walk you through how to download and effectively use Zotero. Use the JUMP TO feature on the left-hand side to go to see specific directions.

If you are looking to make a quick bibliography, try using ZoteroBib. ZoteroBib is a website where you can create a bibliography instantly from any computer or device, without creating an account or installing any software.

Zotero vs. ZoteroBib comparsion



Best for working on comprehensive or long-term projects like a thesis or dissertation Best when writing a short paper with minimal citations
Ability to build a large research library of resources including attaching PDFs and making notes Can create quick, one-off citations
Can share library of resource for work on collaborative projects No software download
Must download software and create an account No account creation


Click here to download a step-by-step sheet on how to install Zotero.

 Install Zotero

  1. Zotero works with Chrome, Firefox and Safari web browsers. Go to http://www.zotero.org/.  Click the Download button. 


  1. On the next page, click the Download button to install the Zotero software for Windows, macOS or Linux platforms. An .exe file will appear in the left lower corner of your browser. Double click on the file to open.


  1. The Zotero Setup Wizard will open. Select the Standard setup option and click next to install. Be sure to click the Finish button at the end and your empty Zotero library will open.


  1. Now download the Zotero Connector using your web browser of choice. The Connector will allow you to automatically download citations through your web browser. Go back to https://www.zotero.org/download/ and click the Install Connector. Add the extension to Chrome, Firefox or Safari. Now you are ready to start using Zotero.



Create a Zotero account

You must create a Zotero account if you want to back up your files or access your library from anywhere. Zotero offers 300MB of free storage space which accounts for roughly 100 PDFs. You can save citation data without downloading the PDF.

  1. Go to https://www.zotero.org/user/login/ and click Register or Register for a free account.


  1. Next create a username and password. Be sure to register your Zotero account with your Villanova.edu email address.


  1. Check your email. You will recieve a link from Zotero. Click the link to validate your account. 



Creating a collection folder in your library

Organize your results by creating a search folder in your Zotero library.

  • Start by creating a folder in Zotero by clicking the yellow folder with a plus sign New Collection icon and naming your new folder.



Setting your Preferences

  • Citation format style - Under Edit and Preferences click the Export icon and select the default format style from the drop down menu.


  • Automatic PDF download - By default, Zotero will automatically download the full-text PDF version of articles (or related files) when importing items. If you wish to disable this function to save storage space, go to Edit and Preferences then the General gear icon and uncheck the setting.


Adding items to your library

Zotero can save all sorts of citation records including journal articles, books, websites, and more.

  • Article - If you are viewing a single article record, a white Paper icon will appear in your browser. Click the icon to add the article to your Zotero library.


  • Book - If you are viewing a single book record, a blue Book icon will appear in your browser. Click the icon to add the book to your Zotero library.
  • Website - Zotero allows you to save website metadata, as well.
  • YouTube video - To save a YouTube video, right click on the screen and select Save to Zotero and then Save to Zotero (YouTube).


  • Manually add an item - In your Zotero library, click the green plus sign icon and select the item type you wish to enter. Manually type in the information.


Adding multiple items TO YOUR LIBRARY

  • Database search results - If you run a search in any database or the library catalog, you will notice a tiny yellow Zotero Folder icon in the top right-hand side of your browser.

1. Click the Folder icon and the Zotero Item Selector will pop up on the screen. 



2. All the results from your search will appear in the pop-up box. Select specific articles from the search or select all to add items from the search to your library.

3. Note that you can manually select results within a database search, and then click the Folder icon to have your selections pre-checked off.


  • Bulk database search file- Occasionally, you may encounter a database where the Zotero browser connector may not appear to pick up search records. Or you may have run a search and received thousands of results. For large sets of search results, try downloading an RIS or BIB file of the records from the database. Below is an example of how to download an RIS file from PubMed and import results over to Zotero.

1. Save search results into an RIS file.


2. Double click the file at the bottom of your browser.

2020-03-05_15-37-05.png3. Make sure Zotero is open and running. A pop-up will appear asking to import the file. 


4. The file should appear as a collection and contain all selected results.


Word Add on

  • Create easy in-text citations by getting the Word add on.
  1. In Zotero, go to Edit --> Preferences
  2. Click the Word Processor tab. Click Install Microsoft Word Add-in


  1. When using Word you will notice a Zotero tab in top ribbon.
  2. For easy in-text citations, click the Zotero box then click Add/Edit Citation.


  1. Type in information related to the citation like author last name, article title, journal title, etc. Based on what you type, Zotero will find related citations. Select the item you wish to cite.


  1. Once you click the citation information, it will create an in-text citation on the spot:



Organizing your library

Zotero features an iTunes-like library management interface, so you can sort collection by author, date, title, etc. You can add or remove columns by clicking on the columns icon at the top right corner of the collection pane.


Your library is keyword searchable from the main window. There is also an advanced search, which can be accessed by clicking on the magnifying glass icon. Advanced searches can be saved as new collections.

Underneath your library and collections in the left column, there’s a Duplicate Items folder, which collects all of the items Zotero has identified as duplicates. Use this to choose which version of the citation to keep.


Tags provide a way of searching for a sorting items in your library. They’re automatically created from catalog and database subject headings, but you can also add your own tags to personalize your library.

Timelines. Zotero includes a timeline feature for visualizing your collections. You can activate it within any collection by going to Actions -> Create Timeline.

Notes can be added to any item using the Notes tab in the right-hand column—this pulls up a basic text editor. Notes are synced along with the other metadata for each item.


Creating bibliographies

A bibliography can be generated from any collection by right-clicking (Ctrl-click on a Mac) on the collection and selecting “Create Bibliography From Collection.” You can then select from a range of citation styles and output formats.

Bibliographies can also be generated within Word by using the Zotero Word plugin.

Word plugin

Install the Word plugin by going to Actions -> Preferences, and clicking on the Cite tab.

The plugin adds a Zotero toolbar to Word that can be used to add in-text citations while you type, and to create bibliographies.

You can also switch the citation style used in your document with a single click, which is helpful, for instance, if you write something in Chicago Style, but the journal you submit it to requires MLA.



Zotero Groups allow you to share your library and/or individual collections with others online. Groups can be public or private, as well as open or by invitation only.

New groups must be created via the Zotero website. The “New Group” icon within the Zotero Firefox plugin redirects there and will prompt you to log in.

Once your group is created, you can invite users to it by sending them invitation emails from the Zotero website.

Once you belong to a group, the group’s library and collections will appear beneath your own library in the left-hand column of Zotero.

Items can be added to group collection using all of the same techniques for adding them to your own collections, and also by dragging items from your own collections to a group collection.

You can also browse or search for other groups to join that match your research interests.

Users can create profiles, send each other messages, and “follow” one another.


Apps and add-ons

There are a growing number of plugins that extend the functionality of Zotero for the expert user. There’s a list here: http://www.zotero.org/support/plugins

There are also apps that allow you to add books to your Zotero library by scanning their barcodes with your mobile device: BibUp (iPhone): http://elearning.unifr.ch/bibup/tuto/index.php) Scanner for Zotero (Android): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.ale.scanner.zotero

Live Demonstration (Falvey Friday Edition 4/9/2021)

Falvey Fridays—Citation Management using Zotero