Zotero Basics

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Set Up Zotero Standalone

  1. Create your free Zotero account profile .
    • Doing this will let you sync your personal library to any device, access your library online, and participate in groups.
  2. Download and install Zotero Standalone to your device .
  3. Add your username and password to Zotero Standalone to sync your account.
    • Open the Zotero app on your computer.
    • Select the gear icon, then choose Preferences.
    • Go to the Sync tab.
    • Enter your Zotero account information in the Zotero Sync Server settings and select OK.
  4. Add the browser extension for your favorite browser. .

For more information about the installation process, view the Zotero Installation Instructions .


  1. The Zotero Mobile Apps for iOS or Android
    • Different applications will allow you to read papers, add and edit content, and organize your library from your mobile device.

Add Items

Import Citations from a Website

  1. Open the Zotero app on your computer before searching the web.
  2. Search a database (e.g. LibCat, EBSCOhost) or website (e.g. Ulukau).
  3. Next to your browser’s web address bar, you’ll find a Zotero icon. The Zotero icon that appears will depend on the kind of material displayed in your browser (e.g. book, article, film, list of results / citations).
  4. Select the Zotero icon to add a citation, resource, or web page to your Zotero library.
    • If there is more than one citation on a page, all of the citations will be displayed in a pop-up box. Check the items you want to save and select OK.
  5. A pop-up box will appear in the bottom right corner to let you know your items are being saved to Zotero.

Import PDFs from Your Computer

PDFs (and other files) can be dragged and dropped from your computer into your Zotero library.

  1. Open Zotero and click on a Zotero folder.
  2. Drag and drop a PDF into the middle pane.
  3. Right-click on it and select “Retrieve metadata for PDF.” This will generate a citation for the item.

Manually Add an Item

  1. Select the “Add new item” icon Zotero plus button in the Zotero app.
  2. Choose the type of item, then type in the bibliographic information.

Export Citations from RefWorks to Zotero

Zotero does not keep the same folder structure as in RefWorks when exporting citations. In order to keep the same organizational structure of your personal library, you can create new folders (collections) in Zotero with the same names as the folders in RefWorks. It is also advised to export one folder at a time when recreating your organizational structure in Zotero. Read more about how to create new folders (collections) in Zotero .

  1. Log into RefWorks and select either “All References,” “My List,” or a specific folder that you want to export into Zotero.
  2. In the RefWorks drop down menu, either select “References - Export” OR the "Export” link in the Quick Access side menu.
  3. A pop-up box will appear. Select the Export Format: “Bibliographic Software” then “Export.”
  4. A browser window will appear with the references in tagged format. Right-click in the browser window and choose “Save page as.” Save the item to your desktop as a text file (*.txt) and name it after your folder in RefWorks. If the browser window does not appear, make sure that pop-up windows are not blocked on your device.
    • Repeat steps 1-4 for all folders that you want to move into Zotero.
  5. Open Zotero. Either select “File” in the menu and “Import” OR select the gear icon and then “Import.”
  6. This will prompt you to browse for the saved .txt file(s) on your device. Select your item and click “Open.” This will import the file into Zotero under the .txt file name.
    • Repeat steps 5 & 6 for all .txt files that you want to move into Zotero.
  7. If you need to create a new collection in Zotero, click on the Folder icon Zotero add collection button and name the collection folder as needed. You can then drag and drop items into the new collection.

Organize Library

Organizing by Collections

You can create collections (folders) to organize specific, well-defined categories within your library. Note that items can be assigned to multiple categories, and that doing so does not duplicate the item. For more information about collections and collections properties, view the Zotero Collections and Tags page.

How to Create a Collection

  • Select the “New Collection” button above the left column OR “My Library” and choose “New Collection.”
  • Name your new collection.
  • The new collection will appear as a folder inside “My Collection.”
  • Sub-collections can be created by dragging and dropping one collection into another OR by right-clicking an existing collection and choosing “New Subcollection.”

How To Add Items To A Collection

  • New items are automatically added to the selected / active / displayed collection.
  • Drag and drop existing items into the desired collection in your library. By default, the items will be added to the new collection but won’t be removed from the original location.

Tagging Items in Zotero

Like hashtags, Zotero tags allow you to add helpful descriptors to your items. In addition to adding content-related keywords, also consider adding status / action keywords (e.g., “Read Later” or “Cited in Mythology Paper”). For more information about tags, view the Zotero Collections and Tags page .

The Tag Selector

  • The tag selector is located at the bottom of the left column.
  • It shows all the tags that have been attached to the items currently shown in the center column.
  • Select the multicolor button then “Display All Tags in This Library” to show all tags in your library.
  • By selecting one or more tags in the tag selector, only items that have been assigned those tags will display in the center column.

Bulk Editing Tags

  • To rename a tag across all of its tagged items, right-click the tag in the tag selector and choose “Rename Tag.”
  • To delete a tag from all items, right-click the tag and choose “Delete Tag.”
  • To assign a tag to multiple items at once, drag a selection of items from the center column onto a tag in the tag selector.

Create Citations & Bibliographies

Creating Citations

  1. Open Microsoft Word and type your paper.
  2. To add a citation, select the Zotero toolbar.
  3. Select “Add/Edit Citation” button.
  4. The Z bar will open (you may be asked to choose a citation style first). Search for an item in your library by typing a keyword into the box OR select the “Z” and select “Classic View” to see a list in your library.
  5. Select a citation then “OK.” The citation will be inserted.

Note: If you are sending your paper to someone else, consider removing the codes. Zotero inserts codes into Word so the citations can be updated and refreshed. The codes can be removed if you want to share your document with someone who is not using Zotero.

Creating Bibliographies

  1. To create a bibliography, move your cursor to where you want to insert it and select the “Insert Bibliography” button.
  2. To remove an item from the bibliography, delete it and hit the Refresh icon. All references to it will also be deleted.

Note: You can drag and drop a reference into any text editor (Word, email, blog) to insert a full bibliographic entry.

Read more about using the Zotero Word plug-in for creating citations and bibliographies.


How to Create a Group in Zotero

  1. In the Zotero app, select the “New Group” icon next to the “New Collection” icon in the top left corner.


  1. Go to the Zotero Website and select the “Create New Group” button located on the Groups tab page.

Watch video on creating a Group Collection in Zotero.

Types of Groups

  • Private Groups - a private collaboration amongst members without a public presence on the Zotero website. Only group members are able to see the group’s site.
  • Public (Closed Membership) Groups - joining the group is by invitation only, but the group bibliography is publicly viewable by other Zotero users.
  • Public (Open Membership) Groups - anyone can join and view the group’s library. Within this group, the administrator can hide portions of the group's public library from non-members.

Types of Group Members

  • Group owner - change group public / private status, control access by members, change group settings, and delete / transfer ownership of a group.
  • Administrator - change group public / private status, control access by members, change group settings.
  • Members - edit group library according to access level given by administrator or owner.

Helpful Video Tutorials

List of YouTube Video Tutorials
Includes a list of YouTube video tutorials for Zotero 5.0 that cover general and advanced features of the program.

This video shows users how to add citation information and items from websites, library catalogs, and journal databases to Zotero.

This video shows users how to manually create items with bibliographic information in Zotero.

Discussion & Forums

Zotero Discussions
Includes recent discussions posted on zotero.org
Zotero Blog
Includes recent and archived blogs on zotero.org
Zotero Twitter
The twitter account for zotero.org

Help Page

Need Additional Help?

Resolve your issue by following the appropriate steps on the Zotero Help page .