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Citation Management using Zotero: General How-To's

"Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself."

Zotero Icons

Look for these icons in the address bar of your browser.  Each icon indicates how Zotero is interpreting the webpage you're looking at.  Click on any of the blue links below to see an example of the icon Zotero assigns to each type of source (you must have Zotero installed on your computer for these examples to work).














EXAMPLE: Science Magazine




In-Text Citations

There are two ways to use Zotero to generate your in-text citations.

1.  Get the appropriate Zotero Add-On for your word processor from Select citations from your Zotero database to add as you go along. 
Screencast showing how to insert in-text citations and an associated works cited list in Word:


2.  Save your working document as a "rich text document" (.rtf) file.  Follow the instructions for RTF import, and all your citations will "magically" be formatted at the same time. 

Overview of Zotero

Books and Articles 

Zotero provides the ability to save references from most library catalogs (including MERLIN) and databases, and even some regular web pages, with one click. (Zotero publishes a list of compatible sites, and many sites not on this list also work.) If Zotero detects that you're looking at a book or article on a catalog, database, or a site like, LibraryThing or the New York Times, you'll see a book or page icon appear in the address bar of your browser. Just click the icon and Zotero will automatically save the citation.


If you're on a page of search results with many items, you'll often see a folder icon instead. Click this to get a list of all the items on the page, and check off the ones you want to save.

Other Web sites

Zotero can't automatically capture citation info from some web pages, but you can still add them to your Zotero library.
zotero button

Click the Zotero button at the bottom of your browser to access Zotero's controls.

Click the (Create New Item From Current Page) button to save a link to the page. Zotero will automatically save a "snapshot." A snapshot is a copy of the page saved to your local computer. It includes the page's text and images, so if the page is removed later you'll still be able to refer to it.

Importing Items from a Bibliography in an Existing Word Document

The best way to get your bibliographies from an old paper into Zotero is to use another free program called Wizfolio to convert the text to an RIS file.  Zotero can then import the RIS file.  Go to and set up an account, and you'll be ready to go.  Here is a video that shows how to get your bibliography into Wizfolio, export it as an RIS file, and import the RIS file into Zotero.

Organizing Your Library 

Click the Zotero button at the bottom of your browser to open your library. At the top left is a folder button with a green plus sign. Click this to create a new "collection."

Create collections to organize your references. Collections are like file folders on your computer, but a reference can be in more than one collection at a time. In other words, a book on the Civil War could be filed in your "Civil War" collection, your "Missouri History" collection and your "19th Century America" collection without having to make three copies of the reference.


To create a bibliography from your Zotero library:

Select the references or collections you want to include.

Hold the <control> key and click to select multiple items.

<Right-click> one of the selected items and choose Create Bibliography.

Choose the bibliographic style you want, and select the output format: Save as RTF or HTML, copy to clipboard or print.

Or, for an even easier method, just drag and drop references from Zotero directly into your document and the references will turn into fully formatted citations. This works with any word processor including Google Docs.

* Be sure to always check your reference! Automatically generated bibliographies are never perfect.


Creating a Bibliography While you Write

Zotero offers word processing plugins for Word and OpenOffice.

The plugin adds a Zotero toolbar to the upper left hand corner of your word processor that allows you to add citations to your document while you write.

To add a citation, click the first button ("Insert Citation") on the toolbar. Select the reference you want to cite and click OK. Zotero will add the citation at your cursor.

At the end of your paper, click the third button ("Insert Bibliography"). Your bibliography will appear, and new citations will be added automatically. Change bibliographic styles with the last button on the toolbar ("Set Doc Prefs").



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