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Introduction to Academic Writing: Zotero

Research and library resources for students taking Wr 1 and Wr 2 at Caltech.

Welcome

This is a brief overview of Zotero. Please visit our citation management guide if you would like more information including step-by-step instructions with images. 

Help!

If you need help, contact Melissa or visit LibAnswers to browse Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), chat live with a librarian (if available), or send a message to our library staff. We'll get back to you as quickly as possible.

Library Staff

Downloading and Installing Zotero

Zotero has three parts you'll need to set up:

  1. Zotero Standalone is a desktop application for Linux, Mac, and Windows. The program is installed locally on your computer. You can download it from zotero.org/download.
     
  2. Zotero Connector is a browser extension or add-on available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. You can install it from zotero.org/download.
     
  3. Zotero Online is important if you want to sync your Zotero citations across different computers or if you want to share your citations. You can create an account at zotero.org/user/register. If you use your Caltech email address to register, you get free unlimited storage courtesy of the Caltech library. Otherwise, Zotero offers 300 MB of free storage. Storage applies to attachments like notes, PDFs, and snapshots of webpages and not individual citations.

Using Zotero

Zotero is similar to other citation management software. You can use it to collect and organize citations, take notes, create bibliographies, and to insert citations into a document while writing. Please keep in mind: Zotero is a tool. It’s only as good as the information you put into it.


There are many ways to collect citations with Zotero. Some of the most common ways to capture citations include:

Collecting Multiple Citations from Google Scholar, Web of Science, PubMed, or similar indexes and databases

  1. Open Zotero Standalone.
  2. Perform a search in Google Scholar, Web of Science, PubMed or similar indexes and databases.
    • Enhance your Google Scholar experience by updating your settings to include Library Links. Click on the tribar icon and then on Settings, select Library Links, and add Caltech.
  3. Refine or narrow your search.
  4. Click on the folder icon in your browser toolbar.
  5. Select the citations you want to add to Zotero.
  6. Click OK and Zotero Connector will add the articles to Zotero Standalone.


Collecting Single Citations from Google Scholar

  1. Open Zotero Standalone.
  2. Perform a search in Google Scholar.
    • Enhance your Google Scholar experience by updating your settings to include Library Links. Click on the tribar icon and then on Settings, select Library Links, and add Caltech.
  3. Click on and open your desired article.
  4. Click on the article or PDF icon in your browser toolbar and Zotero Connector will add the article to Zotero Standalone.


Collecting Single Citations from Web of Science or PubMed

  1. Open Zotero Standalone
  2. Perform a search in Web of Science or PubMed
  3. Click on and open your desired article
  4. Because Web of Science and PubMed are indexes, full text articles (PDFs) are not captured directly using Zotero Connector
    • If you just want a citation and don’t want full text articles (PDFs), simply click on the article icon from within Web of Science or PubMed and Zotero Connector will add it to Zotero Standalone
    • If you want full text articles (PDFs), first navigate away from Web of Science or PubMed to the publisher’s website, and then click on the article icon in your browser toolbar and Zotero Connector will add the article and PDF (if available) to Zotero Standalone

Organizing Citations

Collections allow you to group items together as you see fit. When you have Zotero Standalone open, collections appear on the left hand side, under 'My Library' in the form of folder icons. Any item can be assigned to more than one collection. Just drag and drop an item onto the collection(s) you want that item to be associated with.

Tags (also called “keywords” in other programs) allow you to describe an item in more detail. You can add multiple tags to an item. Tags are also searchable. When you have Zotero Standalone open and a citation selected, the 'Tag' tab appears on the right hand side between 'Notes' and 'Related.'

Please see our guide on organizing citations for detailed information.

Sorting and Searching Citations

When Zotero Standalone is open you can sort your citations by clicking on the headers in the middle panel to toggle between ascending and descending order. To add or remove headers, right-click in the header to open a drop down menu.

You can search Zotero Standalone in two ways. The first, Quick Search, is found in the top-right corner of the middle panel. The second, Advanced Search, is found by clicking on the magnifying glass icon in the top-left corner of the middle panel.

Please visit the following links for detailed information:

Citing While You Write with Zotero

Zotero offers plugins for word processing programs including Google Docs, LibreOffice, and Microsoft Word. The plugin adds a Zotero toolbar to your word processor that allows you to add citations to your document while you write.

If you do not see the Zotero toolbar when you open your word processor, in Zotero Standalone go to Edit > Preferences > Cite > Word Processors and install or reinstall the program.

The toolbar will allow you to search for citations in your Zotero library and change citation styles. If you need additional citation styles, you can add them from Zotero Standalone or from within your word processor. From within Zotero Standalone, go to Edit > Preferences > Cite > Styles > Get additional styles. From within Microsoft Word, go to Zotero > Document Preferences > Manage Styles.

See our guide on citing while you write for more detailed instructions with images and a video.

Creating Bibliographies

To create a bibliography from within Zotero Standalone, select a collection or group of citations, right-click and choose 'Create Bibliography...' A dialog box will pop up and you can choose citation style, output mode, and output method. You can find detailed step-by-step instructions with images on our creating bibliographies page.

  1. Add your summary and evaluation of the citation to the ‘Extra’ field in Zotero Standalone (which you can find in the right panel if you have a citation selected).


     
  2. Click Modern Language Association 8th edition (annotated) OR American Psychological Association 7th edition (annotated) and open the file using Zotero.


     
  3. Click on Install.
     
  4. When you are creating a bibliography, make sure you have selected 'Modern Language Association 8th edition (annotated)' OR 'American Psychological Association 7th edition (annotated)' as your citation style.
  • From within Zotero Standalone go to Edit > Preferences > Cite > Styles > Style Manager
  • From within Word go to Zotero > Document Preferences > Citation Style