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Citing Sources: Zotero

Zotero Z logo     Zotero text logo

About Zotero

Zotero is a free web-based bibliographic citation management tool that includes many citation styles.  A web-based tool called zbib is also available for quick citations.

Zotero has two parts:  a standalone application, which is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux; and the Zotero Connector browser extension, which is available for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.  The connector will not work on Opera or Microsoft Explorer or Edge.

Users may access their data from any computer that has Zotero installed. (Zotero is a local download, so users must install it on every computer they will use.)

Group collaboration and sharing of documents is available.

Microsoft Word and Google Docs have add-ins for Zotero that allows citations and references to be created within a document.  If you're using Microsoft Word, you must have it installed on your computer; Zotero cannot be installed with the online/browser-based version of Microsoft Word.


Zotero has two parts:  a standalone application, which must be installed on your computer, and a browser extension, which helps you save sources to your account.

Quick Setup Instructions

  1. Download and install the standalone application from Zotero's website. You can install Zotero on Windows without administrative privileges.
  2. Once you have installed Zotero, register for a free account.  In your application preferences, log in using the username and password you just chose.
  3. Install the Zotero Connector for your browser--Firefox, Chrome, or Safari.  Once it's installed, you should see the icon in the upper right corner of your browser window.  The icon changes depending on what kind of document or site you're viewing.
  4. Make sure Zotero is installed for Microsoft Word or Google Docs.  You can use the Zotero toolbar to add in-text citations to your document and/or generate a list of references.
  5. If you just need to cite one or two things, try zbib, Zotero's web-based citation tool.

Downloading and Installing the Application

The first step is to download and install the Zotero standalone application.  The majority of these videos will depict an installation on Windows, but Zotero is also available for Mac OS X and Linux.

Installing the Zotero Connector

The Zotero Connector is a browser extension that grabs information about whatever you're viewing (an article, ebook, webpage, etc.) and sends the information to the Zotero application.  The Connector is not strictly required, but very highly recommended since it makes it much easier to get information about your sources into Zotero.

Registering for an Account and Syncing

You can register for a Zotero account, which allows you to sync your saved sources between devices (for example, if you have more than one computer) and access them online (for example, if you normally use Zotero at home on your desktop but you're in a computer lab on campus).  If you only ever use Zotero on one computer, you don't need an account; however, it's recommended if you ever get a second computer or plan to use the groups feature.

Adding Items to Zotero

Here's where the important stuff starts -- adding your sources to Zotero.  It generally does a good job of getting the information about articles and books; however, it may have more difficulty with websites and PDF documents, so you may need to add them manually or clean up the entries.

Installing Zotero for Microsoft Word

Zotero integrates with Microsoft Word to help you create your in-text citations and list of references.  If everything goes perfectly with your installation, you should see the Zotero tab on the ribbon in Word without having to do anything else.  However, we've recently seen an increase in the number of people who need to do a manual installation of the Zotero plugin.  These videos will show you what to do on both Windows and Mac OS X and 11.

Using Zotero in Microsoft Word

Once Zotero is available in Word, you can use it to create in-text citation as you work on your project.  At the end, Zotero can also generate a list of references for all the sources that you cited in-text.

Creating Bibliographies Outside of Word

You are not required to use Zotero in your word processing program.  Some students are confident in their ability to create in-text citations, but want help creating the list of references, and Zotero can do that for you.  More rarely, some students only want Zotero to help with their in-text citations and prefer to create the list of references on their own.  Zotero can do that too, but it's not as common as the first situation.

Using Zotero Groups

Users who have Zotero accounts can set up groups to share sources, which is especially helpful for collaborative projects.  This video from the ZoteroVideo YouTube channel will explain how to use and set up groups.