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Beginner's Guide to Zotero


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Zotero is an easy-to-use citation management tool that developed by the Center for History and New Media at the George Mason University. It helps you to gather, organize and cite sources (papers, fulltext pdfs, web pages, images and other objects) and share results of your web browsing, idea generation and research tracking.

Published in: Health & Medicine
  • The next wave of users for Zotero will likely be high school students. It would be great to have separate instruction for downloading and syncing properly. The actual using of Zotero seems quite intuitive. However, the forums go into great detail about proxy and related code if the download and syncing are not working properly. Most high school students will need less complicated technical support than that. To me, it seems unclear what path to take if the yellow folder and blue page icon do not present themselves in the URL after downloading and syncing as per instructions.
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Beginner's Guide to Zotero

  1. 1. A Beginner’s Guide to Using Zotero – UBC Biomedical Branch Library Overview to Zotero 2 Zotero now & into the future 2 Install ‘add-on’ onto your computer 2 Navigate Zotero Interface 3 Window or Pane Layout 3 Add citations to Zotero library 4 Create citations manually 4 Create citations from websites 4 Import citations from databases & catalogs 5 Import from a Saved Zotero Library or other 5 Organize your Zotero Library 6 Create a New Collection 6 Add Citations to a Collection 6 Rename collections 6 Delete citations 6 Search in Zotero 7 Quick Search 7 Search with Tags 7 Advanced Search 7 Create a bibliography 8 Enhance citations 8 Edit 8 Add attachments 8 Tags 8 Add relationships 8 Create notes 8 Move Your Zotero Library 9 Change Location of Your Library 9 Export to Other Citation Programs 9 Using Zotero with MSWord 10 Add citations 10 Edit citations 10 Generate a bibliography 10 Edit bibliography 11 Update references 11 Using a timeline in Zotero 12 Need help? Visit the UBC Biomedical Branch Library on the 2nd floor of the Diamond Health Care | | 604.875.4505 1
  2. 2. OVERVIEW Zotero is a free bibliographic management extension to your browser (also called an ‘add-on’) that works with Firefox. Zotero recognizes websites and bibliographic records in library catalogues and databases and extracts metadata from these sources. In addition to its bibliographic capabilities, Zotero has features that add to citations including capture of webpages, storage of files, images and note taking. As Zotero works in your browser, it captures information as you search. The advantages of Zotero are: . Capture bibliographic data for non-traditional sources such as webpages, wikis and blogs . Extract from multiple databases and import data into Refworks . No need to download text files or import filters If you use other types of bibliographic or reference software to manage your research and citations, Zotero can be used with other programs such as Refworks or Endnote, for example. FUTURE PLANS FOR ZOTERO Zotero is a popular tool in 2010 even though it does not yet support all library databases (i.e. Web of Science). By default, Zotero saves your folders to your hard-drive. To transfer it, see Transport Your Zotero Library on page 11. Zotero’s compatibility with Microsoft Word is also somewhat limited. Zotero developers are trying to address these issues. Zotero’s functionality is slowly improving such as its highlighting and annotation capabilities, and advanced searching. Developers plan to add more tools, translators, citation styles, import/export formats, web access to your Zotero library and better integration with MSWord. For the latest information on Zotero’s new features and limitations, see or TO INSTALL Firefox 2.0 or higher is required for Zotero – download Firefox from If you have Firefox 2.0 or higher, download the Zotero extension. . Go to and click red Download graphic . A box appears, click on Install Now NAVIGATING ZOTERO Open Zotero in four ways: .Go to the Tools menu & choose Zotero . Click on Zotero logo in bottom right of your browser . Click on Zotero icon in your browser toolbar . Press Ctrl + Alt + z if using a PC or Shift + Apple + z on a Mac To close, click Close window at top right or repeat steps used to open Zotero… Need help? Visit the UBC Biomedical Branch Library on the 2nd floor of the Diamond Health Care | | 604.875.4505 2
  3. 3. ZOTERO PANE LAYOUT To resize the Zotero window, click the top edge of the window and drag it to reposition the boundaries. The window has three panels that represent different levels of specificity for your references. . The Left Panel shows your Zotero libraries and collections, as well as “tags” (keywords). The tags button is circled in the picture below. . The Middle Panel displays items contained within the library that you select in the Left Panel. . The Right Panel displays information about the item that you select in the Middle Panel. Left Panel Middle Panel Right Panel ADDING CITATIONS TO YOUR ZOTERO LIBRARY You can add citations to your library in four ways: . Manually enter citation information . Automatically cite webpages . Import citation information for a single item . Import citation information for multiple items Using EndNote? Change default settings so you are not prevented from using Direct Export to EndNote - click on Actions icon ( ) in the Left Panel and choose Preferences Uncheck the box that says Use Zotero for downloading RIS/Refer files. CREATING CITATIONS MANUALLY To create a citation manually in your Zotero library: . Go to Middle Panel and click New Item icon ( ) menu. . A pull-down menu will appear. Select type of source you want to cite. (For more citation types, click on More and options will appear.) . In the Right Panel, you will find fields that are specific to the type of resource you selected. Fill in those fields with the data for your item. Need help? Visit the UBC Biomedical Branch Library on the 2nd floor of the Diamond Health Care | | 604.875.4505 3
  4. 4. CREATING CITATIONS FROM WEBPAGES To import citations for webpages into your library: 1. In the Middle Panel, click on the Create New Item from the Current Page icon ( ). Information about the current webpage will automatically be pulled into your library. 2. Edit the information by clicking on each field in the Right Panel. Zotero automatically saves items you import. This information, however, is saved only in your browser on your computer. When you cite a webpage, Zotero pulls information from the page – so if the author is not listed, you have to enter the name(s) manually. You can add a link or take a picture of your current page that will be entered in your library as a citation. Click on Save Link to Current Page Click on Take Snapshot of Current Page to take pictire IMPORTING CITATIONS FROM DATABASES & CATALOGUES Zotero is compatible with many library databases such as EBSCOhost, OvidSP, LexisNexis, ProQuest and PubMed. A full list of online databases supported by Zotero is at Once you find citations in a database - import them all or select one at a time… If you are on a page with a list of results, a Folder icon ( ) will appear in your address bar. If you are looking at an individual record, a Book icon ( ) or Article icon ( ) will appear instead. . Click on the displayed icon . If an individual record, it will immediately be added to your library . If a result list, a box appears with a list of all records to import . Click OK and your items will be imported to Zotero IMPORTING FROM A SAVED ZOTERO LIBRARY OR OTHER CITATION PROGRAM To import from a saved Zotero library or another citation program: . Export your citations from the other program and save it as a RIS file. . While in Zotero, save as Zotero RDF (described on Exporting to Other Citation Programs) . Open Zotero window; click on Actions icon ( ) menu and select Import. A dialog box appears… . Locate your saved document and click on Open . Your selected library (or file) will appear in the Left Panel in a separate folder Need help? Visit the UBC Biomedical Branch Library on the 2nd floor of the Diamond Health Care | | 604.875.4505 4
  5. 5. ORGANIZING YOUR LIBRARY WITH COLLECTIONS Zotero allows you to manage how your citations are organized. You can change the locations of citations and the names of collections. Additionally, you can add tags, links, and notes to individual citations to make them easier to search and identify. CREATING A NEW COLLECTION Within your Zotero library, you can create collections. Collections are tools to help you categorize your citations. Your collections are shown in the Left Panel. To add a new collection to your Zotero library: . Click on New Collection icon ( ) in Left Panel. . A box will appear on your screen prompting you to name your new collection. Choose a name and click OK. Your new collection will appear in the Left Panel of the Zotero window. ADDING CITATIONS TO A COLLECTION If you want to copy items from your library into your new collection: . Click on those citations you want to move in the Middle Panel. . Drag each citation into the new collection in the Left Panel. A copy appears in the new collection. (This does not remove the item from its original location in your library.) . You can select multiple citations by holding down Control (PC) or Command (Mac) while clicking RENAMING COLLECTIONS If you would like to rename a collection: . Click on the collection you would like to rename. . Right-click (PC) or use Control + Click (Mac) on highlighted item and select Rename Collection…. . A dialog box will appear on your screen asking for a new name . Type in the new name and click OK. DELETING CITATIONS To delete an item from a collection, select it and press Delete on your keyboard. This will delete the item from the collection but will still be in the library. If doing this from the library, it will be deleted. To delete an item from your library, select the item and right-click it. Choose Delete Selected Item from Library. This permanently deletes the item with any notes or relationships associated with it. For up-to-date information on Zotero, please see SEARCHING FOR CITATIONS Need help? Visit the UBC Biomedical Branch Library on the 2nd floor of the Diamond Health Care | | 604.875.4505 5
  6. 6. Once citations are in Zotero, you can find specific examples. You can do quick or advanced searching: QUICK SEARCHING . Click collection you want to search in Left Panel . Type search terms into Search field in Middle Panel. The field will search as you type. . Results appear in Middle Panel. These will only be from the collection you selected in Step 1. SEARCHING WITH TAGS Use tags associated with the different items to find them. These can be tags you have created or ones that were downloaded automatically with records from library catalogues or databases. . Make sure all the tags are showing by clicking the Actions button . ( ) in Left Panel and choose Show Automatic . All tags from selected collection are now displayed . Click on a tag to see items with that specific tag . Narrow your search by clicking additional tags ADVANCED SEARCHING You can do an advanced search if you want your search to be more specific. . Click on collection you want to search in Left Panel . Click on Advanced Search in Middle Panel. A window appears prompting your search . Choose a search category from Title pull-down menu on the left . Type in search terms; add terms by clicking the plus sign ( ) next to it . Continue this process until you have all terms . Delete search terms by clicking minus sign ( ) next to them. . Click Search. Results for your search will appear. Note: save your search for future use by clicking on Save Search and typing in a name. It will be saved in the Left Panel. Any new items will be retrieved automatically in these saved searches. Need help? Visit the UBC Biomedical Branch Library on the 2nd floor of the Diamond Health Care | | 604.875.4505 6
  7. 7. CREATING BIBLIOGRAPHIES To create a Zotero bibliography: . Select items you wish to include in your bibliography in the Middle Panel. . Once items are chosen, right-click selected items . Choose Create Bibliography from Selected Items. A new dialog box will appear. . Choose the citation style you would like to use for your bibliography from the pull-down list. . Choose format to save your document (Rich Text Format (RTF) or HTML for a webpage). You can print the document. . Click OK. To generate a bibliography in your Zotero library, right click on the collection you want in the Left Panel and select Create Bibliography from Collection. Then follow the steps 4-6 above. You can drag and drop citations for items from your Zotero library into a document. To drag and drop a single citation: . Click and hold on the item you want to cite . Drag your mouse to document in your taskbar (Windows) or dock (Mac) to pull up document . Drag item to place in document where you want citation to appear and release mouse button The citation style will appear in the Default Output Format specified in your Zotero preferences. To change the style, go to Actions > Preferences > Export and select a style from the pull-down. For up-to-date information on Zotero, please see Need help? Visit the UBC Biomedical Branch Library on the 2nd floor of the Diamond Health Care | | 604.875.4505 7
  8. 8. ENHANCING CITATION EDITING CITATIONS To edit information about items in your library: . Click on the citation you would like to change in the Middle Panel . In the Right Panel, click on the field you want to change and type in the new information ADDING ATTACHMENTS You can attach files to individual citations in your library. This is useful when you have saved electronic versions (PDFs) of articles and want to link them to the corresponding citations. To add an attachment: . Select the citations to which you would like to attach your file in the Middle Panel . Click on the Attachments tab in the Right Panel . Click on the Add button. A set of options will appear. . You can attach a file by choosing Link to File or Store Copy of File. . By linking to a file, you create a file path to document on your computer. If you store a copy of the file, the entire document is saved in Firefox. WORKING WITH TAGS Individual items can be tagged to facilitate searching and organizing. Items can have more than one tag. To add your own tag to a citation: 1. Select the citation you would like to tag in the Middle Panel 2. Click on the Tags tab in the Right Panel, and then click on the Add button. 3. Name your tag in the field that appears. Your tag will then be attached to the selected reference and will appear as part of your tag list in the Left Panel. If you click on the tag in the tag list, all citations with this tag will appear in the Middle Panel Note: Some items saved from online catalogues will automatically import related tags. To see these tags, click the Actions button ( ) in the Left Panel and choose Show Automatic. Now the tags you’ve added as well as those that were already attached to the item will display. ADDING RELATIONSHIPS Create a link between one item and another by adding a relationship between the two: . Click on Related tab in the Right Panel . Click on the Add button. . Select a citation to which you would like to relate the item and click OK. Need help? Visit the UBC Biomedical Branch Library on the 2nd floor of the Diamond Health Care | | 604.875.4505 8
  9. 9. CREATING NOTES To add a note to a citation: . Select the citation you would like to add a note to in the Middle Panel . Click on Notes tab in the Right Panel, then click on the Add button. . A dialog box will appear into which you can type your note. You can also add tags and related items to the citation you selected in this box by clicking on Related or Tags in the bottom of the frame. . For articles without a link or snapshot, you can create multiple notes. For articles with a link or a snapshot, you are only allowed to create one note. To enter notes, click on New Standalone Note icon in the Middle Panel. A box will appear in the Right Panel for you to enter notes. When you are finished, it will be saved with your references and will be accessible from the Middle Panel. The default name is the first few lines of text in the note. To create a note from a document or webpage that you are currently viewing: . Highlight the text that you would like to cite. . Right-click on the text to open Options menu... . Click on Create Zotero Item and Note from Selection. Your text will be saved as a note for the citation of your current page MOVING YOUR ZOTERO LIBRARY By default, your Zotero library is stored in Firefox on your computer. You can change the location of the library to a portable drive (or your IFS space) or export the library. CHANGING THE LOCATION OF YOUR LIBRARY If you use several computers, you can change the location of your Zotero library to any machine and access it. You have to set the location on each new computer you use… . Quit Firefox, copy your Zotero library and paste it in new location (drag it to a portable drive and that will make a copy). The folder is in your Firefox profile directory – see Zotero FAQ to find exact location . Click on Actions icon ( ) menu and select Preferences. . Click on Advanced tab. . Click on Custom radio button under Storage Location. . A Select Zotero Data Directory window will appear. Once you select a directory for your library, Zotero will restart Firefox. All Zotero data will now be saved in the new directory. Need help? Visit the UBC Biomedical Branch Library on the 2nd floor of the Diamond Health Care | | 604.875.4505 9
  10. 10. EXPORTING TO OTHER CITATION PROGRAMS To use your citations in Zotero on another computer or in a program such as EndNote: . Click on the Actions icon menu and select Export. . A dialog box will appear prompting you to choose the format of your exported document. Click on the Format pull-down list to select a format. . If you plan to export your library into Zotero on another computer, choose Zotero RDF. If you would like to export your to another citation tool, choose RIS. . Click OK to save file. Import into another citation program or into Zotero on a 2nd computer (Importing from a Saved Zotero Library or other Citation Program) USING ZOTERO WITH MSWORD Zotero's plugin for Microsoft Word makes it easy to cite items from your Zotero library in Word documents. The plugin is available for both Mac OS X and Windows, and has been tested with various versions of Word. Further compatibility information and installation instructions are available online at Once you have installed the plugin, new icons will appear in your Microsoft Word toolbar. ADDING CITATIONS To add a new citation to your Word document: . Click Zotero Insert Citation . Add Citation window appears . Select item you want to cite in Word document . Select citations by clicking Multiple Sources… add sources to a list . Add page numbers as well as prefixes and suffixes . To preview your citation, click on Show Editor… button . Edit Citation box appears at bottom of Add Citation window . Click OK. A properly formatted citation is in the document Need help? Visit the UBC Biomedical Branch Library on the 2nd floor of the Diamond Health Care | | 604.875.4505 10
  11. 11. EDITING CITATIONS To edit an already existing citation in your document: 1. Click on the citation you would like to edit. Click the Edit Citation button 2. The Add Citation window will appear. Edit the citation as needed then click OK GENERATING A BIBLIOGRAPHY To generate a bibliography for all items referenced in your document, click Zotero Insert Bibliography ( ) button. A bibliography will be inserted at your current place in the document. EDITING A BIBLIOGRAPHY To edit an already existing bibliography in your document: Click on Zotero Edit Bibliography ( ) button. A window appears with your Zotero Library and the references in your bibliography… To add a reference to your bibliography, click on the reference you would like to add and append it to the list in the Right Panel. To edit references in your bibliography, click on the reference on the right you would like to edit. Edit it in the Edit Citation box below. Click OK after you are done. UPDATING REFERENCES AND PREFERENCES If you have made changes to your collection once you inserted a citation or created a Bibliography, click Zotero Refresh. This will update your references in your document To change the style output of your document, click the Document Preferences button. A window will appear allowing you to change citation styles and formatting For up-to-date information on Zotero, please see Need help? Visit the UBC Biomedical Branch Library on the 2nd floor of the Diamond Health Care | | 604.875.4505 11
  12. 12. USING A TIMELINE The timeline function in Zotero offers another way of visualizing your collections. To create a timeline: . Select items you want in your timeline . Click on the Actions icon ( ) menu and select Create Timeline; selected items will be added to a timeline on the main screen of your browser. . Each band represents a different historical magnification. The lighter gray areas represent the area of the timeline visible on the first band. You can change the displayed time bands through pull-down menus above your Zotero window . To view different parts of your timeline, click and hold anywhere in the gray area and drag left or right as appropriate. Clicking on an item in your timeline will bring up the corresponding item in your collection. For more information, please visit Need help? Visit the UBC Biomedical Branch Library on the 2nd floor of the Diamond Health Care | | 604.875.4505 12