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Citation Management Tools: Zotero

A quick guide to using citation management tools.

What is Zotero?

Zotero is a free, open-source, reference management software that helps users collect, organize, cite, and manage their resources. The web-browser plugin keeps Zotero easily accessible while you work on research. 

Zotero lets you attach PDFs, notes, and images to your citations, making annotation easy. You can also create folders and collections to organize your resources by project, as well as create bibliographies. 

While you collect citations in Zotero, you also build a personal online database for your research. Most references can be imported with the click of a button from research databases and websites. 

Zotero can also help format your references in Microsoft Word (or other word processors) in hundreds of citation styles. 

Sharing and collaborating is possible through Zotero Groups.

Tutorials and Info

Syncing Your Account

Syncing allows you to access your Zotero library on any computer with internet access. 

  • Data syncing merges library items, notes, etc (except attachment files), between your local computer and Zotero servers, which lets you work with your data from any computer that has Zotero installed, as well as see your online library. Data syncing is free and has no storage limit.
  • File syncing is needed in order to sync attachment files (like PDFs). If file syncing is something you feel you'll need, please read more about your options HERE.

To Sync your data, start by opening your Zotero desktop app. Click Edit on the top menu. Select Preferences. You'll see the screen below. 

Click the Sync tab. This will ask you to enter your Username and Password (the ones you setup on Enter those and click Set Up Syncing

Word Processor Integration

When you download Zotero, you also automatically download the plugin for your devices supported word processor. 

In Microsoft Word, a new Menu option will appear after installing Zotero:

Under the Zotero options, you'll see:

For more detailed instructions on these features, please click HERE.

Getting Started with Zotero

1) Visit and click the Download button.

This downloads the Zotero Desktop App to your device. 

3) Create a Zotero account by clicking "Log In"

4) Click "Register for a free account" and complete the form to get registered.

This will create your free Zotero account that can be used both for your Desktop App and Zotero Online. 

Downloading Citations

Downloading citations and PDFs into your Zotero account is fast and easy, but there are a few things to take note of. 

IF KCU has access to an article as a full PDF, your plugin icon to the right of the website bar will look different. This is because Zotero will save the FULL PDF, not just the citation information. When the full PDF can be saved, you will see a mini PDF icon. 

For articles that KCU does not have access to, the Zotero plugin icon will look like a piece of paper. This lets you know that the full PDF is not available to you and will not be saved in Zotero, just the citation information. 

To save the article/citation, open the Zotero desktop app. Once it's running, go back to your article and simply click on the Zotero icon. A small box will appear and let you chose which of your folders to save to.