Skip to main content

Using Zotero

An introductory tutorial to using Zotero 5.0

What is a citation manager and why should I care?

When doing research at the graduate level, it is important to be diligent about keeping track of your sources. This can be done with pen and paper in a dedicated notebook or on index cards. Or, you might just keep an Excel spreadsheet of all of the materials you are consulting for a project.

Citation managers like Zotero, RefWorks, and Mendeley help automate the process by working with your web browser to grab the information about a source (author, title, publication, etc.) with the click of a button. They can even be integrated into word processing software to automatically generate properly formatted citations and bibliographies.

Introducing Zotero

Zotero is a research tool that was created for academics, by academics. It is a product of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Zotero is best used in Chrome or Firefox.

It has two pieces:

  • the application, which you’ll install on your computer
  • a browser “connector” so that you can save to Zotero from your browser

We’ll call the citations you save in Zotero your library, but it is more like a database. You’ll need to create a user account that will allow you to sync your library across multiple devices. Zotero stores your information centrally (we call this the Zotero server), and when you add or edit items in your library you will want to sync the changes to the Zotero server, so that your library is updated on all of your devices.

Note: the Zotero website is not the same as the Zotero application.

The website allows you to access your library without installing the application, like if you are working in the library and just want to look up a reference that you’d saved earlier. The online library doesn’t have all of the features we’ll be discussing in this tutorial.

Installation

  1. Create an account on zotero.org/user/register.
  2. Download Zotero 5.0 for Windows or Mac on zotero.org/download and open up the download package to install it.
  3. You must also install the Zotero connector for Chrome or Firefox, also on zotero.org/download. This is what will connect the information from the web browser to your desktop application.
  4. Zotero download page

Before using Zotero for the first time, we need to set up our preferences and connect the standalone application to the browser connector.