Zotero workshop outline and notes

James Jacobs, jrjacobs@stanford.edu

Last updated: November 6, 2018


Collect, manage, cite and share your bibliographic resources!

“I can see the potential for awesomeness!” -- workshop attendee


Participants will be able to:

• Understand the basic principles of bibliographic citation *management*.

• Install Zotero and the word processor plugin.

• Collect citations from library catalogs and databases.

• Add notes and attachments to a collected citation.

• Add citations and bibliography to a Word document with Zotero toolbar.

*Please join the reference-manager-users listserv (https://mailman.stanford.edu/mailman/listinfo/reference-manager-users). This low traffic list is a good communication tool for getting assistance, reporting Stanford-centric issues etc.


Zotero is a free, open source citation manager developed by the Center for History and New Media at the George Mason University. Though it used to require a Firefox plugin, Zotero now works on all platforms (OSX/Windows/Linux) as a stand-alone client with connectors to Firefox, Chrome and Safari! Citation plugins are available for Microsoft Word (Mac or Windows) and OpenOffice (Mac, Windows, Linux). Also easy drag-n-drop footnoting in google docs. Mobile apps are on the way as well! ProfHacker describes a few ways to use Zotero with an iPad.


• Zotero can automatically detect citation information from library catalogs and many article databases (JSTOR, EBSCO, etc) making it incredibly easy to use.

Starting in Zotero 5.0.56, if you save an item from a webpage where Zotero can’t find or access a PDF, Zotero will automatically search for an open-access PDF using data from Unpaywall. Zotero can also now take better advantage of PDFs available via institutional subscriptions. When you use “Add Item by Identifier” or “Find Available PDF”, Zotero will load the page associated with the item’s DOI or URL and try to find a PDF to download before looking for OA copies.

• It works with sites like google scholar, google books, NY Times, Amazon, flickr and youtube and does drag-and-drop citations into Google docs.

• It can take “snapshots” of potentially transitory web material for later use, though it no longer supports the Internet Archive's Zotero Commons! (Check preferences to see the powerful things one can do with Zotero.)

• There’s duplicate checking and merging of citations on zotero.org -- 300MB free storage (see zotero storage for larger storage needs).

Word processor integration.

• It facilitates citation sharing through Zotero groups.

• And try ZoteroBib to make a quick citation in any citation style.

• Also, free kittens!!


Go to Zotero.org and click the big red “Download” button. Follow the instructions on the page. After installing the stand-alone client, also install the the Zotero connector for your favorite Web browser and for your word processor (this should be done automatically on client download!). Restart your browser and word processor and you’re all set! You’ll see a small Zotero button in the toolbar of your browser. Zotero stays active in the background as you search.

ALso check out the growing number of plugins to expand what you can do with Zotero!

Open your client. The left column shows your “library” of references, including any collection folders you’ve created. The middle column shows all items in the collection you’re working with at the moment. The right column shows the details of any individual item you select.


You can add citations to your library in four ways:

1) Manually enter citation information;

2) Automatically cite webpages;

3) Import citation information for a single item;

4) Import citation information for multiple items. (You can ALSO import from other citation managers like refworks and endnote!)

When you view a web page with items like books or articles, it adds a new button to the browser’s address bar allowing you to save the citation.

Hands-on activity: go to SEARCHWORKS [http://searchworks.stanford.edu/] and do a search. Select any single item. Show book icon in location bar. Open Zotero window, click icon to see reference added to library.

This will work with many library catalogs and databases.



LexisNexis Academic


EBSCO: America, History and Life, ERIC, Historical Abstracts etc.

Proquest: Worldwide political science abstracts, PAIS, ERIC etc.

Google Scholar

IDEAS: Economics and Finance Research

*See databases.stanford.edu for links to all of these and more!!

It also works with sites like Amazon, flickr, youtube, wikipedia, NY Times, LibraryThing, blogs and others.

*Any databases not supported directly by zotero may still be able to export citations to RIS or BibTex format, which Zotero can import.

Taking snapshots of web pages: Zotero can capture not only links to web pages, but an actual copy of the web page called a “snapshot.” The difference is that a snapshot saves all the text of the page, plus layout and images – this is useful for web content that may change. It also gives you a local copy of the page that you can use if you’re on a laptop without internet access.

Use the camera button to take snapshots. When viewing a snapshot page, you can use the buttons at the top of the page to add annotations and highlighting.

Attaching PDFs or images: Select an item and click the “Attachments” tab on its description in the right pane. Click the Add button. “Link to File” creates a pointer to a file on your hard drive. “Store Copy of File” makes an actual copy of the file in your Zotero library that can be exported along with your library. You can also attach a web link or snapshot.

You can set Zotero’s preferences to automatically attach an article’s full-text PDF when available. This works well on JSTOR, for example.

Taking notes: Right-click an item and choose “Add note.” This allows the user to attach text notes to items in one’s zotero library. Notes won’t appear automatically, but the user *can* copy and paste notes into footnotes.


Creating collections: a collection is a group of references. Click the folder icon at the top left of the Zotero window to create a new collection. It’s like a folder on your computer, except that an item can appear in more than one collection. A single citation could appear in your “American History,” “Civil War,” and “AFRUCAAM 255” collections, for example.

You can also tag items: add descriptive terms to an item to make it more easily searchable. To tag, select the Tags tab in the right pane and click Add. You can search for tags or click a tag in the left column to see all items with that tag. Items you save from library catalogs and databases often come pre-tagged with library subject headings.

Importing: Zotero can import citations from other citation software like EndNote, Refworks, or Mendeley. Most bibliography software (including Zotero, Refworks, Mendeley and EndNote) can read/write a text file format called RIS or BibTex. Most online research databases can save citations in this format. To import a RIS file, click the gear button and choose Import, then browse to the file.

Exporting: To save your library or part of it, right-click on whatever items you want to export and choose “Export (library, collection or selected item).” Save as Zotero RDF if you want to share with another Zotero user, or RIS to share with someone using EndNote or other bibliography software.


Download Word plugin: http://www.zotero.org/support/word_processor_integration 

Installing this plugin adds a Word macro menu for Zotero. On Word 2007, it’s under “Add-Ins.” On Word 2003, it’s just another regular toolbar.

Where a citation is desired, click the first button, “Zotero Insert Citation.” The first time Zotero will prompt you to choose a bibliographic style. Then select the citation you want and click OK to insert it into the document. (Try Chicago footnote styles. It’s easier to use footnoted styles with Zotero than EndNote, since Zotero creates the footnote for you!)

Place your cursor at the end of the document and press the third toolbar button to insert the bibliography.

Press the sixth/last button on the toolbar, Document Prefs, to reformat the document in a different bibliographic style.

You can also drag-and-drop Zotero references into a Google Document (or any text field in a web page) to create a formatted bibliography entry. Google Docs doesn’t offer a toolbar.


Extending Zotero:

Zotero has the support of a robust open-source community. Because of this community, Zotero is frequently updated with new functionalities, as well as hacks to extend Zotero’s utility.

Zotero Groups:

Groups provide a powerful way to share citations and collections with a class, colleagues, or a community. Users can create private or public groups with either open or closed membership. Note: open public groups cannot share documents attached to library items.



Networked Zotero:

Zotero libraries/groups can be saved to a networked server



Zotero plugins: http://www.zotero.org/support/plugins 

Posting zotero cites on your blog:

(also see the ZotPress plugin to integrate Zotero with Wordpress blogs)

COinS: (ContextObjects in Spans) http://ocoins.info/ 

Wordpress COinS plugin (to allow your blog posts to be zotero’d): http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/scholarpress-coins/ 

Paper Machines: http://papermachines.org/ (Unfortunately, Paper Machines is no longer being updated, but it *was* an amazingly useful tool to analyze one’s library of citations! Because it’s open source, you could jump in to continue the project!!)

"Paper Machines is an open-source extension for the Zotero bibliographic management software. Its purpose is to allow individual researchers to generate analyses and visualizations of user-provided corpora, without requiring extensive computational resources or technical knowledge."

Taking Better Notes in Zotero

Zotero for archival research

Zotpad iPhone/iPad client: http://www.zotpad.com 


In small groups do the following:

1) Each small group create a zotero group and add each person in the group as members.

2) Choose your favorite database from http://databases.stanford.edu (or use the library’s catalog http://searchworks.stanford.edu) and save several citations (*with* attached PDFs of articles) to the zotero group.

3) Add a note or two to your citations.

4) Go to your group on http://zotero.org to see the final results of your collaborative work. Compare the online group library to the library on your computer. Any differences?

5) As a class, discuss your findings. Each group should be prepared to share out a plus and a delta -- what was easy, useful, difficult? Any features of particular note?

Where to go for more information/help: