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Citation Management with Zotero — Modify References

Learn to use Zotero, a free, open-source citation management tool.

On this page:

  • Open or Close References 
  • Edit References 
  • Locate More Information About and the Full Text of References 
  • Find and Merge Duplicates 
  • Add Notes to References 

Open or Close References

To make all the parts of items visible in the center pane, such as PDF attachments or web snapshots, select an item in the center pane, use the plus key on your keyboard.

Center pane of references with all items opened to show attachments

To collapse all items, use the minus key.

Center pane of references with all items closed to hide attachments

Edit References

You can edit any information in a reference by selecting it in the center pane and then clicking in the field you wish to modify in the right-hand pane.

Reference selected in center pane

Volume field in reference has been selected and cursor can be seen there

Locate More Information About and the Full Text of References

The Locate menu, the green arrow drop-down menu at the top of the right-hand pane in the Zotero client, helps you get additional information about references already in your library. It can also help you locate the full text of article citations.

Green arrow Locate menu open to show various lookup options

Here are three lookup options you'll likely see in the menu:

Library Lookup

  • If you used the instructions in the Get Started tab → Configure Our "Library Links" in Preferences, you'll see Library Lookup as one of your choices in the Locate menu.
  • When you select a reference, click the Locate arrow, and choose this, Zotero will check to see if our library has the full text of the article you need. If not, you can follow the usual steps from there to request it by interlibrary loan. However you get it, you can download the full text and drag and drop it on top of the Zotero entry in order to save it as an attachment.

CrossRef Lookup

  • When you select a reference in your library, click the green Locate arrow, and choose this, Zotero will try to find the DOI (digital object identifier, or unique identifying number) of the article.
  • If this lookup works, you may want to import the information from that lookup using the Zotero button, then merge the new citation with its duplicate, since it will likely have more publication details (see the next box for details).

Google Scholar Search

  • This does the same thing as the CrossRef Lookup, but using Google Scholar as the search engine.

Find and Merge Duplicates

It's important to have only one copy of each reference in your library. Usually, Zotero automatically locates duplicates so you can easily merge duplicate references at any time.

To merge duplicates:

  1. In the left-hand pane, select "Duplicate Items."

    Arrow pointing to Duplicate Items folder
  2. Select one of the references in the center pane. Zotero will automatically co-select anything it perceives as a duplicate.

    Image showing two duplicate items selected at the same time
  3. Now look to the right-hand pane. If necessary, Zotero will ask you which reference should be the master copy, and will allow you to modify specific parts of the reference if needed before the merge.

    Merge items box showing choice of which to use as primary reference and how to change individual fields
  4. Click on "Merge # items" at the top.

Zotero may not automatically find all your duplicates, so you may find it useful to sort your library by title occasionally to catch any additional ones.

Add Notes to References

Zotero allows you to add notes to the references you collect. These are known as "child notes" since they're directly connected to a reference.

To create a note for a reference:

  1. Select one of your references in the center pane.

    Arrow pointing to reference selected in center pane
  2. There are several different ways to do this from here.

    One, go to the "Notes" tab in the right-hand pane then click "Add."
    Arrow pointing to Notes tab in right-hand pane

    Or, click on the sticky note icon at the top of the middle pane and select "Add Child Note."

    Note menu show in its open state; button is a yellow sticky note with a plus sign, and recommended choice is Add Child Note

    You can also just right-click a reference in the middle pane and choose "Add Note."

    Right-click context menu for a selected item showing Add Note highlighted

Notes can be seen as attachments under individual references, support formatted text (e.g. italics), and can contain images and links. They are searchable as part of your Zotero library. Notes also save as you type. You can add as many notes as you like to the same reference.