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Zotero Citation Manager

A how-to guide on using Zotero, a citation management tool that collects, organizes, and cites your references.

What is Zotero?

Zotero (pronounced "zoh-TAIR-oh") is a free application that allows you to collect, manage, and cite research sources. It's easy to use, connects to your web browser to download sources, and integrates with your word processor to insert citations and references.

Attach PDFs, add notes and comments, and organize the sources you're using into collections for each project or assignment. By creating an account, you can sync your sources across devices. Periodic updates expand compatibility and add support for new citation styles. 

How does it work?

Flow chart explaining how the Zotero browser extension and application organizes and cites sources

The Zotero browser extension, Zotero Connector, captures the source (webpage, article, video, etc.) you want to save and creates a record in the Zotero Application. Within the application you can create folders for projects, organize sources, add notes, generate citations, and more. Using the word processor plugin provided with the application you can create a bibliography and insert citations into your own projects.

Getting Started

Flow chart showing the Zotero installation process

  1. Go to the Zotero Downloads page and download the Zotero 5.0 installation file for your operating system. The page should direct you to the installation file for the operating system you're currently using, but you can also manually select an operating system under other platforms.
  2. After downloading the installation file, follow the directions to install Zotero on your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer.

Using a Chromebook? The easiest way to start using Zotero is to create an account and login to access the Zotero Web App. If you feel comfortable with Linux and entering commands in Terminal, you can install the Zotero Desktop App on your Chromebook.

  1. While using one of the support web browsers (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge), go to the Zotero Downloads page.
  2. On the right-hand side, click the install button under the Zotero Connector header.
  3. Not using a supported browser? Try the Zotero Bookmarklet in place of the Connector.
  1. Go to the Register page on the Zotero website
  2. Enter your email and create a username and password.
  3. Continue using the Zotero Web App in your browser or open the Zotero Desktop App you installed in the first step.
  4. Navigate to the application preferences under Edit > Preferences in the top left.
  5. Under the Sync tab, enter your Username and Password and click the Set Up Sync button. Click OK and exit the preferences menu.
  1. Open your Zotero Desktop App and navigate to the Preferences menu (Windows & Linux: Edit > Preferences; MacOS: Zotero > Preferences)
  2. On the top row of icons, click on the Cite icon.
  3. You should see two more tabs (Styles & Word Processors) just below the top icons, click on the Word Processors tab.
  4. Click Install Microsoft Word Add-in or Install Libre Office Add-in.

If you previously used the Zotero for Firefox extension, you will now need to update to Zotero 5. Here are some of the steps you may encounter as you download Zotero 5.

1. When you open Zotero for Firefox and sync your library, you may see a message letting you know your version of Zotero is out of date. Click okay - don't worry - your data will be fine.

2. Use the download directions to download the new version of Zotero. It is possible you will need to go through the Set Up Wizard twice to successful activate your new version of Zotero.

3. When your new Zotero 5 library opens, you will be prompted to sync your library. Use the sync icon in the upper right-hand corner of your Zotero library.

4. Enter your Zotero username and password in the sync dialog box then click okay (on Macs, just close the dialog box).

5. After entering your username and password, click the sync arrow again to sync your account.

6. You may be prompted to resolve conflicts between items from your old and new library. Choose the item that has the best data. Often the items are identical.

7. After setting up your Zotero library, try adding a new source to your Zotero library using the new Zotero 5 browser extension. If you previously used Zotero for Firefox, you will see a Z in the upper right-hand corner of your browser rather than a folder icon. Click the Z.

8. The Z will switch to a folder icon, and you can now continue adding sources to your Zotero library just like you did with the previous version of Zotero.

Zotero at the Library

You can find Zotero and the Microsoft Word plug-in installed in all computers in the library.

As of July 10, 2017, Zotero 5 is now available. Zotero 5 is a major new version of Zotero and will especially affect users who previously used the Zotero for Firefox extension. Read more about Zotero 5 on the Zotero website. Zotero for Firefox extension users will need to update to Zotero 5. Download Zotero 5.0 and make sure to download the browser extension as well.

Creative Commons License Content on this guide was originally created by Jason Puckett and licensed by Georgia State University Library as well as Hannah Gascho Rempel and licensed by Oregon State University Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommerical 3.0 United States License. It has been adapted and added to for the Zotero Research Guide at CSUDH.