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Zotero is an open-source citation management tool that is designed to store and manage bibliographic references. Zotero can help you seamlessly add sources and produce perfect bibliographies and gives you the ability to reuse sources across multiple projects or build a shared research library.  Because Zotero is free to use, you will always have access to it.   Note:  Zotero is recommended to use as the replacement for Refworks which is no longer available as of July 2023.

5 steps to using zotero

Zotero Bib

If you just need a quick bibliography, try ZoteroBib instead.  You can use it online without downloading anything or creating an account.  If you have questions about ZoteroBib, check out quick our tutorial or their FAQ page.

Download and Install Zotero

Add a Browser Connector

                  install zotero connector

Add Sources

Browser Add-on (Connector)

Most sources can be captured and directly imported into your Zotero Library.  To capture a source on the web (database articles, websites, YouTube, etc.), use the Browser Connector (View the Add a browser connector for more information.)

     1.    When viewing a web page or article, click the Connector button in the toolbar of your browser. The Connector usually recognizes the type of source automatically.

                       zotero connector button

    2.     When prompted, select the collection/folder that you created in Zotero to add the source to Zotero.

    3.     Wait while the Connector adds the source to your Library or Collection

    4.     In the Desktop app, the last source added is highlighted in the Library or Collection

*More information about installing the Zotero Browser Connector can be found on the Add a Browser Connector box above.

Adding citation information

There are multiple ways to add citation information to your Zotero library. Here are four common ways:

  1. Use the browser extension to add citations from any website, including PubMed
  2. In databases like PubMed, export your results and import them into Zotero
  3. In Zotero, use the wand tool to look up references by unique identifiers such as Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) or PubMed IDs (PMID)
  4. If you have saved PDFs, you can drag and drop them into Zotero to automatically search for citation information. 

Other Ways to Add Items

See more documentation on the various ways to add items (e.g., books, journal articles, web pages, etc.) as items in Zotero.  

Organizing your Sources

There are a variety of ways to organize and manage your sources, including creating folders, creating and sharing groups and adding pdf's, images and other files.  

Citations and References

Once you have sources in your Zotero library, you can now add in-text citations and bibliographies to your research document.  *The Word plugin should have been automatically added to Microsoft Word.

Insert an In-Text Citation

When you add an in-text citation into the text of your document, the full source citation will be added to the Works Cited or Bibliography section of your document in the citation style you selected. 

  1. Within the Word document, place the cursor in the location where the in-text citation should appear.
  2. Click the Add/Edit Citation button in the Zotero toolbar.
  3. In the pop-up search bar, enter a search term like an author's last name or part of a title
  4. Select the source you need from the list of options
  • Once selected, the source will display in the in-text format that will be added to your document
  • If you need to insert more than one source, add a comma after each source, search for the source, and press the Enter/Return to add them
  • Click inside the citation to add a page number or omit the author's name
  1. Press the Enter/Return key on your keyboard

Add a bibliography

You can use Zotero to create bibliographies in multiple ways:

  • Word Processor Integration: Use plugins for Microsoft Office, LibreOffice, or Google Docs to insert in-text citations and bibliographies in your manuscripts
  •  Quick Copy: Select items in your Zotero library and drag them into any text field. This will create a bibliography in your default export format. Set your default format in your Preferences menu under Export.
  •  Right-Click to Create Citation/Bibliography: Right-Click on one or more references and select Create Bibliography from Selected Item(s).

Add a bibliography in a Word Document

  1. Place your cursor where you want the bibliography to be inserted
  • It is recommended to first create a new page blank page at the end of your document 
  1. In the Zotero tab, click the Add/Edit Bibliography button
  2. The bibliography will be automatically inserted in the correct style format

For more information, check out the instructions for using Zotero to create bibliographies from the Zotero website.  

Zotero Notes and Collaborating

Zotero Notes

Zotero allows you to add notes to your sources.  Adding notes directly to a source has many potential uses, but it's the best method for saving and organizing your notes on physical resources (e.g. print books, articles, and etc.).  With electronic resources, it's best to take notes directly in the article and extract them using Zotfile.

A few ways to use notes are:

  • To directly type notes;
  • Copy-and-paste a table of contents;
  • Note a book’s library catalog number if I use it often;
  • Copy-and-paste highlights from services like Kindle or Scribd;
  • Extract highlights and annotations made in Adobe Reader or in Zotero’s PDF reader.


You can create Group Libraries to share with others or collaborate on creating a resource list. Groups can be public/open membership, public/closed membership or private.  You need to create your group and send invitations via Zotero's web interface.   Note: In order to use group libraries you will need to create an account first.

Tutorials and Help

Getting to Know Zotero - 7-minute video

Transferring data from Refworks to Zotero

How to save your data in Refworks to transfer to another citation manager

Select a folder in RefWorks or "All References" if you are not using folders. If your citations are organized in folders, we recommend that you export one folder of citations at a time in order to make it easy to recreate your folder structure in Zotero.

  • Under Share and Export, select Export References.

  • In the pop-up window, make sure the folder is selected and choose RIS Format.

  • Click Export.

  • A file -- typically named export.ris -- will be downloaded to your computer. Feel free to rename the file to match the RefWorks folder, if you intend to repeat the process with multiple folders.

  • Repeat these steps for additional folders in RefWorks.

Please keep in mind that PDF files and custom fields cannot be exported to migrate to another citation tool. If you want to transfer your notes, they need to be in the "Notes" field.

How to transfer your Refworks data to Zotero

Once you open Zotero on your computer and log in with your account, you are ready to import citations:

  • In Zotero, go to File > Import and choose to import "A File."

  • Select the RIS file format.

  • Locate and select the file you just created in exporting from RefWorks.

  • In the importing options, select to place imported collections and items into new collection, so that Zotero imports the citations in a folder automatically named the same as the file name.

  • Select to copy files to the Zotero storage folder.

  • Click Next to let Zotero import the citations and click Finish when the process is completed.

  • Repeat these steps for additional downloaded files from RefWorks.