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Zotero is free, easy to use software that helps you save, manage, and cite research sources.

Adding Items to Your Library

Capturing Items from the Web

There are several distinct ways to capture information from your browser using Zotero’s browser connectors.

  • Chrome, Firefox, and Safari users can capture information by clicking a type-specific icon near the address bar in the browser. If Zotero recognizes the “type” of item displayed on the screen (book, journal article, etc.), the icon will change to represent the item type.
    • There are many type-specific icons you might see. Among the most common are the folder icon, folder icon  which will display when Zotero recognizes multiple resources on the page; the book icon, book icon which will display when viewing a book; and the document icon,  which will display when viewing most journal articles. There are also icons for magazine articles, newspaper articles, blog posts, videos, and conference papers, among others.
  • In Chrome, this icon appears just outside the address bar to the right. 
  • In Firefox, this icon also appears outside of the address bar to the right among the tool and feature icons. 
  • In Safari, this icon appears to the left of the address bar (where http://www…. usually goes). 

browser connectors

If a type-specific icon does not appear…

  • You can capture information by selecting the Save to Zotero (Web Page) icon web page or the Save to Zotero (Embedded Metadata) icon embedded metadata zotero in the browser when it appears. You can also right-click on this icon to access other options for saving the page.
  • Or, to simply capture data from a webpage in Firefox or Chrome, right click anywhere on the page and select the Zotero option in the right-click menu. If using the Safari plugin, you must press Command and simultaneously click anywhere on the webpage to access the Zotero menu.

Each method described here will grab a "snapshot" of the current page, as well as some basic information (metadata) about the page. This information provides the bibliographic data required for citations. When saving with basic website icons, Zotero only collects the information provided by the site (often what is coded into the HTML), so some data fields may remain blank and will require modification in Zotero.

Adding items manually

Often you will need to add items by hand. This is especially important when using archival or other print materials not available on the web, or when working with nonstandard item types, such as reports, images, podcasts, or forum postings. 

To manually add an item to your Zotero library, select the New Item icon add new item, then select the appropriate item type from the More menu. Note that the most recently-used item types appear at the top of the New Item menu.

Adding items by identifier

Sometimes the easiest and most accurate way to add an item to your Zotero library is to use the Add Item by Identifier feature. Click the Add Item(s) by Identifier icon add item by identifier wand icon then type in the ISBN of a book or a DOI or PMID of a journal article. Zotero will look for the corresponding item and create a complete record automatically.

Adding attachments

It's easy to attach files (like PDFs) to items in your Zotero library. Just drag the file into your Zotero client. Dropping a file onto a collection, or in between library items, will copy it into your library as a standalone item. Dropping it onto an existing item will attach it to that item. This is the easiest way to attach a copy of an article to its entry in your library.

Another way to add an attachment is to first select the item in your library, then click the attachments icon attachments icon, then select Attach Stored Copy of File. This will attach the PDF to the item and store it in your Zotero library.

Organizing Your Library

As you add more and more items to Zotero, it will become increasingly important to keep your library organized by topic, project, or class. Zotero makes this easy with Collections.

To create a collection, click the New Collection icon new collection icon. Collections are like file folders on your computer, but a reference can be in more than one collection at a time. In other words, a book on the sit-ins movement could be filed in your "Civil Rights" collection, your "Southern History" collection, and your "Social Justice" collection without having to make three copies of the reference.

Special Caution

In order for Zotero to produce accurate citations and bibliographies, it is extremely important that you ensure that each item is given complete and accurate metadata in Zotero, including classifying each as the correct item type. Often this will require manual edits. If Zotero contains incomplete or inaccurate information, your citations will be inaccurate.

Adding, Indexing, and Renaming PDFs

It's easy to add PDFs to your Zotero library and automatically import their citation info.

  • First, go to the Zotero Preferences menu (Edit > Preferences in Windows, Zotero > Preferences in macOS).
  • In the Search tab, click to enable PDF indexing. Zotero will download and install a small plugin.
  • Next, just drag your PDF files into the Zotero pane, or select Store Copy of File under the New Item menu .
  • Right-click on a selection of one or more PDFs and choose Retrieve Metadata for PDFs. Zotero will retrieve their citation data from Google Scholar and turn them into citable items with PDF attachments.

If Zotero can't find a match on Google Scholar, don't worry--you can still save the citation from another catalog or article database, then drag the PDF onto the citation to make it an attachment, or select Create Parent Item from the right-click menu and input the metadata manually.

Right click on any PDF attachment on an existing Zotero item and select Rename File from Parent Metadata to clean up the filename.

Animated GIF demonstrating retrieval of metadata for a PDF saved to Zotero

Zotero Guide

Kyle Denlinger's picture
Kyle Denlinger
302 ZSR Library
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