Zotero is a free, open source citation manager with a desktop app, browser extension, and integration with Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and LibreOffice.
1. Download Zotero. Go to Zotero.org and click on the red Download button. From the download page, download the desktop app and the browser extension, Zotero Connector.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.