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Citation Managers

Getting Started

Image of the Zotero logo, the word zotero in black text with a red z.

Zotero is a free, open source citation manager with a desktop app, browser extension, and integration with Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and LibreOffice.

Installing Zotero is simple- just 3 easy steps! 

1. Download Zotero. Go to and click on the red Download button. From the download page, download the desktop app and the browser extension, Zotero Connector. 

A screenshot of the Downloads page of, highlighting the download buttons for the desktop app and the browser extension, as well as the register link in the upper right hand corner of the page.

2. Register for an account. Click on the register link in the upper right hand corner of the download page. Fill out the form to create your account. 

A screenshot of the account registration page of

3. Log in to Zotero. Once the Zotero desktop app downloads, find and open Preferences (Mac users: Zotero menu, PC users: Edit menu). Click over to the Sync tab and enter your username and password. Now you're set to use Zotero! 

Screenshot of the Preferences menu of the Zotero Desktop app, open to the sync tab.

Organizing your Library

Zotero allows its users to organize items into folders, create group libraries, and edit entries if needed. Setting up folders before adding items to your library is recommended- there is no way to do so while adding items using the Zotero Connector. 

Screenshot of a Zotero library, with a folder menu on the left, and list of articles in the middle, and the information for a single article on the right.

Collections & Libraries: Users can create collections and subcollections to organize citations. Group libraries also appear in the left hand menu. 

Items: Items are shown with icons that indicate type (article, book chapter, conference proceeding, etc.) and a drop down menu for PDFs and screenshots. 

Detail Menu: Item details can be edited if needed. This menu also includes a space for notes, tags, and suggestions of related articles. 

Saving Items to Zotero

There are several ways to add items to Zotero: through the Zotero Connector, adding items manually using a form, and drag + drop a PDF into the Zotero library (Zotero will usually, but not always, extrapolate the data it needs from the PDF). 

1. Zotero Connector: when the Connector notices an item to save, the icon will change to match (folder for multiple items, piece of paper for a journal article, etc.). Click on the icon and select the folder to save the item to. A portion of a screenshot of a journal article webpage. A browser extension shaped like a piece of paper is circled in red. There is a window in the upper right hand corner the shows a drop down menu that says My Library and a list of items being saved to Zotero. These items include an article, listed as a title, a PDF, and a screenshot.

2. Manually Add an Item: In the desktop app, click on the green plus sign icon and select the type of item you'd like to add. Then fill out the information in the right hand menu. 

A screenshot of the Zotero desktop app with the add item icon circled in red and a red arrow pointing to the title field of a blank item entry

3. Drag + Drop: Drag and drop a PDF of an article into Zotero. For most articles, Zotero will extract the information it needs and add it to the library. 

4. Import a File: To import items from a file, select File > Import... and select "A File". Zotero accepts Zotero RDF, CSL JSON, BibTeX, RIS, and other file types. Zotero can add the imported items into a new folder if selected. 

Creating Citations & Bibliographies

Creating citations while using Google Docs or Microsoft word is easy. The process is the same for both programs. Google Docs will add a Zotero menu when opened in a browser with the Connector installed. Microsoft Word automatically installs a plugin when the Zotero desktop app is downloaded. To use this feature, Zotero needs to be open on your desktop. 

1. To insert an in-text citation, click on the Zotero menu and select Add/Edit Citation. Zotero will first show the citation styles menu. Select from the most common from the menu, or find other styles by clicking on the Get Additional Styles link. If you change your mind after selecting this style, click on the Document Preferences option the Zotero menu in Google Docs. 

Zotero will then launch a red search bar. Search for the paper you would like to insert, choose it, and a citation will appear in your document where your cursor is. Keep repeating that process throughout your paper. 

A cropped screenshot of Google Docs. A paper is in the process of being written, but the main focus is a red search bar with a few letter in it, and a list of results to choose an article from.

2. To insert the References List, click on the Zotero menu and choose Add/Edit Bibliography. Zotero will format the citations according to the style you chose. NOTE: While Zotero will do the heavy lifting of formatting the citations, it is up to you to double check that they are accurate. No citation machine or generator can be 100% accurate. 

A cropped screenshot of a sample academic paper in Google Docs. The Zotero menu is open and the Add/Edit Bibliography option is highlighted.