Zotero is a free citation manager. This page offers information that will help you create and build a reference library, create and use groups to collaborate, and use Zotero to add properly format references in your papers.

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Adding References Easily

Recognized database icon in Zotero, taken from CINAHLMost of the popular databases and journals are automatically recognized by Zotero and will display a small paper icon in the address bar that you can click to add the reference. An example of this from the CINHAL database is displayed to the right.

Once you've clicked on this icon, a new reference will be added to your library. When the reference is recognized by Zotero, it ought to add the full citation information for the article to your library, but it's a good idea to double check the reference to make sure it was properly imported anyway. This way you do not discover faulty citations when it comes time for you to cite documents.

Other recognized sources include: PubMed, Web of Science, and most journals we subscribe to.

Recognized database icon in Zotero, taken from PubMed


Recognized database icon in Zotero, taken from ISI Web of Science

ISI Web of Science

Recognized source icon in Zotero, taken from American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

And most journals, like the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

If the reference you would like to add does not have that recognized source icon, then you can attempt to manually add the reference, see the next section for a walk-through guide on doing that!

Manually adding references in Zotero

Zotero does a good job automatically identifying references to add to your library, but occasionally it will not display the recognized source icon that allows you to easily add the reference. Most often this will happen when you have a PDF of an article rather than the abstract page of the journal open. Some sources like Embase and the CDC website still will not display the icon to easily add the reference using Zotero for Firefox, but will allow easy importing of references using the Zotero connector and stand-alone client. If you run into difficulty adding a reference from a PDF page, you should go back one step to the non-PDF page, then Zotero may be able to add the reference.

You can also jump to the particular section of the source that's giving you trouble then you can click on these links: PDFs and Google Scholar. If you are unable get Zotero to display that recognized source icon, you can follow these steps:

Adding a reference to Zotero from a PDF

When you have the PDF open, right click in the PDF, select the Zotero option then select the Create Web Page Item from Current Page option. This will add a reference to your collection from the web page. This will not include the full citation information, which you will need when citing the item. To get this, attempt the next step.

Retrieving Metadata from a PDF

Now in your Zotero pane, you will need to select the newly added capture from a webpage, right click on it and select the Retrieve Metadata for PDF. This option will read the PDF for the citation information. For journal articles, this process works fairly well, especially if the journal article is relatively new. Zotero seems to do as well as its rivals (Sciwheel, Endnote, Mendeley) in reading the metadata from the PDF. If it fails, then you will have to add the informational manually, which is demonstrated next.

Failure to retrieve Metadata from a PDF window in Zotero

For some PDFs, Zotero will be unable to retrieve metadata. When this happens, a similar window to the one displayed to the right will be displayed.

Creating a parent item in Zotero

When this occurs, you will need to manually create an entry for the item you'd like to cite. To do this from a PDF that you already have in your library, right click on the entry (named mm62e0507.pdf in this demonstration) and select the Create Parent item option. From there, you can manually fill in the citation information for the item.

Adding references to Zotero in Google Scholar

In a Google Scholar search, when you click the recognized source icon, a window will pop-up that will allow you to select which of the citations you'd like to add to your library. This can be used to make literature reviews from Google Scholar a breeze.

Adding references to Zotero in EMBASE

Adding references by identifier

One helpful feature of Zotero is that you can directly add references if you have an identifier for the item, like an ISBN (for books), DOI (for articles) or PubMed ID (for articles indexed by PubMed).

Adding a reference to Zotero from an identifier

To do this, go to your Zotero window and click on the Add Item(s) by Identifier icon, enter the identifier and it will be added to your library.