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Research Guides

Using Zotero

Adding citations

There are many ways to collect citations into Zotero. We’ll go over some of the more common methods just to get started and to demonstrate what kind of information is being saved. You’ll notice that the different “translators” found across different databases and websites may cause the same reference to show up differently in Zotero, depending on where you found the information.

Now let's try saving a few items.

Journal article in a database

Navigate to JSTOR from the library's A-Z list of databases.

Pay attention to your browser toolbar to see the Zotero icon change as you navigate to different places. When you first get to JSTOR, the icon for webpage displays, because Zotero recognizes that the only citation information embedded on this page is for citing the website, JSTOR.

Now, do a search for a topic of your choice.

On the results page, you'll see the Zotero browser icon change to a file folder. This indicates that the webpage you're visiting contains multiple items. If you click on the folder, a pop-up box will allow you to easily select multiple items from this page. When you click OK, it will save all of these items to your Zotero library. If you have configured Zotero to automatically save PDFs, when available, the PDFs will be saved as attachments to each item.

Go back to your search results page and click on an article title.

Notice how the Zotero browser icon has changed again. This time, instead of a file folder, it shows the article icon. Click on the icon to save this item to your library (and, if applicable, the PDF).

Now, go back to your Zotero library in the desktop application. If automatic sync is activated, you should see the item in your library. If not, click the refresh (sync) button.

Let's take a minute to get familiar with the interface on the desktop app. You can customize the column displays to your liking.


Book through Google Scholar

Now we're going to try saving a book found through Google Scholar.

Navigate to In the search bar, type

Debates in the Digital Humanities

Notice the Zotero icon has now changed to a book. Click on the icon to save it, then return to your desktop app to view it in your library. Depending on the information embedded in the item, it may have saved the abstract and a link to Google Books along with the basic bibliographic information.

Web site

Now let's try saving a website.

Navigate to a favorite blog or other site. Notice the Zotero browser icon change. Click on the icon to save it, then return to your desktop app and view it in your library. What is different?

You should see an attachment for the item, which is a web snapshot. Zotero saved a copy of the webpage along with the citation information.

Organizing your library

Now that we've captured a few different items in Zotero, let's take a look at our library.

You can organize your library into collections. These are folders that can be used for topics, research projects, courses, or individual papers. It's up to you! To create a collection:

  1. Click on the folder icon on the upper left corner of the desktop application. Enter a name for the collection in the pop-up screen.

Items can appear in multiple collections. You can also create sub-folders for each collection, by dragging a collection's folder icon into an existing collection.

To remove an item from your collection, right-click on the item or select the item and press the Delete key. When you remove an item from a collection, it will not delete the item from your library.

Attachments and notes

Items in your library can have notes, files, and links attached to them. If an item has an attachment, there will be an arrow next to the item. Click on the arrow to show or hide attachments.

Notes can be attached to items and are useful for adding annotations or other information about a source. You can also create a standalone note by clicking the New Note icon (looks like a sticky note with a plus).