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Citation Management using Zotero: Zotero Tricks

"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."

Known Issues

  • Known Translator Issues
    Has your database or Web site of choice suddenly stopped playing well with Zotero? Find help here.

Request Zotero Translator

If enough people ask for a site translator, Zotero will eventually create one.


Zotero's new Groups feature (available in version 2.0) allows you to share references with other Zotero users online. It's a great way to work on collaborative research projects.

  1. Set up Zotero sync as described in the "Zotero Sync" box
  2. Log in at There's a "Log In" link in the top right corner of the page.
  3. Search for existing public groups or create a new group. Groups may be public (searchable, and anyone can join) or private (users can only join if invited).
  4. You should now have two sections in your Zotero collections pane: My Library and Group Libraries. You can drag items back and forth between them at will.

Portable Zotero

Install Firefox and Zotero on a USB drive and you can take your library with you to use on any computer!

First, download and install Portable Firefox for Windows or Mac on your USB drive. This is a special edition of Firefox designed to run entirely from a portable drive. It keeps its own settings, bookmarks and Zotero library separate from the settings installed on your computer.

Then, copy your Zotero library from your computer to your USB drive, using either method below:

  1. Open Zotero on your computer, click the gear button and choose Export Library (as in the image below).
  2. Save your library to a file anywhere on your computer.
  3. Close Firefox, run Portable Firefox from your USB drive, open Zotero, click the gear button and choose Import.
  4. Import the file you just saved.


  1. Set up Zotero sync on your computer (see "Zotero Sync"  instruction on this page)
  2. Close Firefox, run Portable Firefox from your USB drive and set up Zotero sync on there too (note: if you use the sync option, any changes you make to your Zotero library will update themselves in both versions of Firefox)

Zotero Sync

Syncing your library means backing up your citations on Zoter's server. This way you can access your citation remotly and retrieve them if something happens to your personal computer.

This arrow will appear in your Zotero library. It will spin when it is uploading your citations.

If you're regularly using more than one computer in your research, Zotero's sync feature can keep your library up to date on all of them.  Zotero can store a copy of your library on the server and check it for updates whenever you open your library on a different computer.  All your computers must be running the same version Zotero and be configured to sync to the server.

  1. Set up a free user account.
  2. Open Zotero preferences (via the gear menu) and select the Sync tab. 
  3. Enter your Zotero user name and password. 
  4. Check the "sync automatically" box.  Zotero will upload your library to the server. 
  5. Repeat this configuration on each of your computers.  Any updates you make on one of your computers will be reflected on the others.  This even works to synchronize your library among Windows, Mac and Linux computers.


For more details and help troubleshooting sync problems, check the Zotero site.

Moving files between EndNote and Zotero

Zotero's page for importing items from EndNote into Zotero

To export references from Zotero to EndNote:

  1. Select references.
  2. Right-click and choose Export Selected Items. Choose RIS.
  3. Choose a location for the file.
  4. In EndNote go to the File menu and choose Import.
  5. Choose the file. Data option: RIS RefMan. Click Import.

Google Scholar

Want to add items from Google Scholar to Zotero? 

Change one setting and "Import into EndNote" will be added to each item in Google Scholar.  Visit Scholar Preferences and in the Bibliography Manager section select Show links to export citations into and choose EndNote from the drop-down menu.  Click Save Preferences and you're done.  Next time you search on Google Scholar, you'll see EndNote as an option.  If you are using Firefox with Zotero intalled, Zotero will grab any citations sent to Endnote.

Using Wizfolio to Convert "Old" Text-Based Bibliographies to Zotero

1.  Open your word-processed document.  Select your entire Works Cited section or bibliography, and copy it, the same way you would normally copy text. 

2.  Go to Wizfolio's home page.  Set up a Wizfolio account.  Once you have the account, you can log in.

3. Hold your mouse over the Add icon toward the top center of the Wizfolio window.  This will open up a menu of options.  Select Import from Clipboard. 

4.  Paste your text into the big box that opens, either by right-clicking and choosing "Paste" or by holding down the control (Mac: command) key and typing v.

5.  You should start to see Wizfolio inserting blank lines between the entries in your bibliography.  The more references you paste, the longer this takes.

6.  After Wizfolio has inserted the spaces, click the Import Now button in the lower right corner of the page.

7.  Wizfolio will attempt to locate full text for the articles in PubMed, but this is not the important thing right now.

8.  Select all the citations you've just imported by clicking the first one, holding down the SHIFT key and clicking the last one.

9.  Click the RIS Export button at the top center of the page.

10.  Save the file.  It will be called MyReferences.ris. 

12.  In your Firefox browser, open Zotero.

13.  Go to the gear icon and choose Import…

14.  Locate the file.  On my computer, the default download location was C:Documents and Settings\Brekhusr\My DocumentsDownloads and the name of the file was My References. 

15.  Double click on the file when you find it.  The references will be imported. 

Once you have the references in Zotero, you can treat them like any other references you’ve added directly into Zotero from a database.  To generate a quick bibliography from Zotero:

1.       Select all the items you want to add to your list of references, either one at a time by holding the control key down while clicking the items you want, or in blocks by clicking the first reference you want, holding the shift key, and clicking the last one you want – all the references in between will be selected too. 

2.       After you’ve selected all the items you want in the bibliography, do a right-click.   Choose Generate Bibliography From Selected Item.

3.       In the popup box that appears, choose the citation style you want (e.g., APA 6th).  Click the radio button for Copy to Clipboard, if that isn’t already selected by default.

4.       Open up your Word document.  Right-click and select Paste.  (Or: hold down the Control key and type the letter v).  Your bibliography will be formatted in APA 6th format.

How to back up Zotero files

How do I back up my Zotero library? Where does Zotero store my references, notes and files?

It is important to fully understand how Zotero stores its data, so you can correctly back up your Zotero library and, when disaster strikes, recover it. By default, your entire Zotero library is stored in the 'zotero' directory of your Firefox profile. The most important file in this directory is the zotero.sqlite file, which contains the majority of your data: item metadata, notes, tags, etc. The directory also contains a 'storage' subdirectory, containing all of your file attachments, such as PDFs, web snapshots, audio files, or any other files you have imported (note that files that arelinked are not copied into this subdirectory).

Your 'zotero' directory will likely contain several other files. These can include zotero.sqlite.bak (an automatic backup of zotero.sqlite, which is updated when you quit Firefox and the existing zotero.sqlite.bak file hasn't been updated in the last 12 hours) and zotero.sqlite.[number].bak files (automatic backups of zotero.sqlite that are created during certain updates to the Zotero extension).

Warning: Before you copy, delete or move any of these files, be sure that Firefox is closed. Failure to close Firefox before moving these files can damage your data.

The quickest and most reliable way to find your Zotero data directory is through the “Show Data Directory” button in the Advanced tab of your Zotero Preferences window.


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