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Introduction to Zotero

Zotero (pronounced zoh-TAIR-oh) is a free citation management tool. Zotero stores citations from library catalogs, research databases and websites. You can also import and export citations, create bibliographies, and insert citations into Microsoft Word.


Zotero works best as an extension for the open source web browser Firefox. This means that you need to first have Firefox. If you don’t already use Firefox, you can download it for free at Even if you prefer to continue using a different browser for other computing, use Firefox to conduct research with Zotero.

Once you have Firefox installed, you’re ready to download Zotero for Firefox. First open Firefox, then enter in the address bar at top.

Screenshot of web browser address bar containing

Press enter and you’ll be taken to the Zotero website. It is recommended that you download Zotero for Firefox instead of Zotero Standalone.

Screenshot of Zotero for Firefox screen with instruction box that reads: "Select Install Zotero for Firefox"

Zotero for Firefox will begin downloading automatically. Next a pop-up window will appear. Select Install.

Screenshot of pop-up window that reads: This site would like to install an add-on in Firefox: Zotero. It has two buttons, Cancel and Install.

Your installation is successful if a Z appears in your Firefox toolbar. See below for an example.

Screenshot example of the Zotero Z icon in the browser toolbar.

To be able to use Zotero to insert citations directly into Microsoft Word, select the link for “plugin for Word or LibreOffice.”

If you don’t already have Microsoft Word, you can download Microsoft Word 2016 for free if you are a current student. For details about downloading Microsoft Word 2016, go to For help with installation, contact Information Technology Services at

If you already have Microsoft Word, you’re ready to select the plug-in designed for your operating system. From within Firefox, choose Windows or Mac by selecting the appropriate link as seen below.

Screenshot of Microsoft Word plug-in selection screen with links for Windows and Mac versions

Zotero will ask you to verify that you wish to install the Zotero Word plug-in. (If you are using Windows, it will specify “Zotero Word for Windows integration). In either case, simply select Install.

Screenshot of example pop-up window for Zotero Word Integration. It has two buttons, Cancel and Install.

To complete the integration between Zotero for Firefox and the plug-in for Microsoft Word, restart Microsoft Word. Once Word reopens, a new tab called “Add-ins” will appear in the toolbar. Here is where your Zotero is now embedded in your word processor. Note: images in this tutorial are from Microsoft Word 2016.

Screenshot of the Add-ins tab view of a Microsoft Word document

You now have both the reference management tool Zotero for Firefox and the citation add-in for Microsoft Word. You’re ready to begin researching and citing with Zotero!

Getting Started with Zotero

Navigating Zotero

Zotero's simple interface is composed of three columns moving left to right from general to specific. The left column displays your library and various collections and subcollections along with tags. The center column displays the references in the specific collection you have highlighted in the left column. The right column provides the specific details about the reference highlighted in the center column including bibliographic information, notes, and any attachments.

Building your library

Zotero can automatically add both individual records and lists to your library.

Individual Records

  • Perform a search and select the record you want to add to your library.
  • Notice the blue book icon that now appears in the address bar. This is an indication that Zotero has recognized this webpage as containing potentially useful citation information. If your search takes place in a subscription database (ATLA or JSTOR), an article icon will be present.

Book record from online library catalog

Screen capture of book record from online library catalog (OPAC)

Article record from ATLA Religion Database

Screen capture of article record in ATLA Religion Database
  • Click the address bar icon, either book or article, and Zotero will add the record to your library.
  • A notification will appear in the lower right corner of your browser.

Collections or Lists

  • Perform your search again but this time do not select an individual record. Notice the folder icon that now appears in the address bar.
Screenshot of folder icon in browser address bar
  • Click on the folder and a popup window will appear asking you which records you would like to import.
Screenshot of record import selection window
  • Check the boxes next to the records you wish to add to your library and click OK.
  • A notification will again appear in the lower right corner of Firefox.

Zotero key for popular reference types:

Screen capture of Zotero reference types: book, journal article, collection, newspaper, film, and file

Create references from websites

Sometimes you may want to add an item to your library but a reference icon does not appear in the address bar.

  • Open Zotero and select the Create New Item from Current Page icon.
Screenshot of Zotero menu bar with Create New Item From Current Page icon circled
  • Zotero will fill in as much information as it can, but you may need to add some additional details.
Screenshot of Zotero create new item menu "Info" tab
  • Zotero will try to guess what type of source the page is (web page, blog, artwork), but you can correct it if necessary by choosing the drop down arrows.
  • You can archive the site by clicking on the Take Snapshot of Current Page icon
Screenshot of Take Snapshot icon

Create references manually

You can still add references to your library even if you cannot locate them online.

  • Open Zotero, select the New Item icon, and choose the appropriate reference type.
Screenshot of the New Item icon and list of reference types: Book, Book Section, Document, Journal Article, etc.
  • Fill in the necessary bibliographic details.

Using Zotero with your Word Processor

After you have installed the word processor integration add-in, you have the capability to integrate Zotero and MS Word.

Adding citations

  • In your word processor, place your cursor where the citation should be added. Unlike EndNote, there is no need to first add a footnote prior to inserting the citation.
Screenshot of Word document with cursor indicating desired location of citation at the end of a sentence.
  • Click on the Zotero Insert Citation icon.
Screenshot of Zotero menu with arrow pointing to the first icon which is for inserting citations.
  • A window displaying your Zotero library will appear. Choose the appropriate citation, add any details necessary such as page number(s), prefixes, and suffixes. Clicking on Show Editor will give you a preview. Click OK.
Screenshot of citation editor with a preview of a citation.
  • A footnote is now inserted into your paper.
Screenshot of an inserted footnote

If you are entering a single footnote, you will notice that the final period of the footnote is missing. Simply hitting the Zotero Refresh button will add the period. It is a bug with Zotero and work is being done to correct it.

  • To edit citations already in your document, place your cursor within the citation you wish to edit (you my have to highlight the entire citation) and click the Zotero Edit Citation icon
Screenshot of the Zotero Edit Citation icon


  • If you are entering citations into your paper, you can complete your bibliography by selecting the Zotero Insert Bibliography icon.
Screenshot of the Zotero Insert Bibliography icon
  • Your bibliography should now appear at the end of your paper. You can then add your own heading, such as "Bibliography" or "Works Cited," if you wish.
  • You can edit your bibliography by clicking the Zotero Edit Bibliography icon
Screenshot of the Zotero Edit Bibliography icon

Creating independent bibliographies

  • Choose the items in your Zotero library that are to makeup the bibliography.
  • Right click and select Create Bibliography from Selected Items.
Screenshot of the right-click menu with Create Bibliography from Selected Items... selected
  • Select the appropriate Citation Style and select the Output Format as Save as RTF. Click OK.
Screenshot of the Citation Style window with arrow indicating the output format Save to RTF
  • Name the file and choose a location for the file.

You can also create bibliographies of an entire collection.

  • In the left column, right click on the collection you wish to create a bibliography for.
Screenshot of Collections window with Create Bibliography from Collection... selected
  • Select the appropriate Citation Style and select the Output Format as Save as RTF. Click OK.
  • Name the file and choose a location for the file.

Zotero and EndNote

It is relatively simple to go between EndNote and Zotero. Whether you want to import an existing EndNote library into Zotero or want to take advantage of EndNote's many output styles, you can easily import/export between the two programs.

EndNote to Zotero

  • In EndNote, choose RefMan (RIS) Export as your Output Style.
Screenshot of EndNote drop down menu with RIS Export selected
  • Go to File and choose Export.
  • Name the file, save it as a Text file (.txt), and make sure the Output style is RefMan (RIS) Export. Click Save.
Screenshot of EndNote export window
  • Open Zotero
  • From the Actions menu select Import.
Screenshot of Zotero Actions menu with Import... selected
  • Locate the Text file you saved above and click Open.
  • Your references have now been imported into your Zotero library.

Want to know more?

Contact Academic Technology

Visit Zotero support for more tutorials, faq's, and the user forum.