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

Video Tutorial: Getting Sources into Zotero

Adding Items to Your Library

Saving Items from the Web

The Zotero Connector for your browser makes it easy to capture source information directly from a source's webpage. There are versions of the Zotero Connector for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera browsers, all available for download at

When it identifies a source on the page, the Zotero Connector will display a type-specific icon near the address bar in the browser. The icon displayed should match the source 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 (for example, on a list of search results in a database); the book icon, book icon which will display when viewing a book; and the article 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.

The Zotero Connector icon will display in different places in different browsers:

browser connectors

What if a type-specific icon does not appear?

Occasionally, the Zotero Connector will not recognize a source's metadata, or the source page will lack metadata altogether. In these instances, 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.

  • Alternatively, Firefox or Chrome users can right click anywhere on the page and select the Zotero option from the context menu. Users of the Safari plugin must hold Command while clicking anywhere on the webpage to access the context menu and the Zotero option.

Each method described here will grab a "snapshot" of the current page, as well as some very basic information about the page. To generate accurate citations for these sources, the records saved with these methods will necessarily require modification upon saving, as they will be incomplete.

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

Items from ZSR Special Collections & Archives

Download the following .RDF file to import a Zotero collection containing a template document with the information for the ZSR Special Collections & Archives collections, as well as a note with tips for using Zotero for archival research. For more tips, see Use Zotero for Archival Research from Harvard Libraries.

Zotero Guide

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Kyle Denlinger
Subjects: Counseling, Education