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Citation Management with Zotero

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

Video Tutorial: Importing References

This video shows the basics of importing references from a library database and by dragging and dropping PDF files into Zotero.

Add References Using the Zotero Connector

The Zotero Connector allows you to add a variety of reference types directly from your browser, whether you're using a library database or just an ordinary website. Zotero must be open to use the Connector. The Connector icon changes depending on what Zotero detects on the page. Just tap the icon to import a reference or references. Some common reference types and their icons:

Journal articlepiece of paperPDFpdf iconBookBookWeb pagepage with text and imageVideovideo

When you tap the Connector, a box will pop up showing you what is being saved and where. If you have Collections in your Zotero library, you'll be able to adjust where the items are saving at this time. In many cases, Zotero will automatically import associated files (such as PDFs) with their references. For web pages, it will import a snapshot of the page as well.

When there are multiple items on a page, such as a list of search results, the Connector icon will be a yellow file folder:file folderTapping the icon will bring up a box where you can select as many of the visible items as you wish.

Add References from Google Scholar

Google Scholar doesn't interact well with the Zotero Connector; if you use it too frequently in a short window of time, Google assumes you're a bot and blocks you for at least a day. The easiest strategy, if you have a Google account, is to login to Google and use My library to collect and export references.

Once you're signed in to Google, do a search in Google Scholar. Within your search results, tap Save, which has a star icon, under each reference you want to export.

Once you've selected all your references, go to My library, near the star in the upper right-hand corner of the page under your login image.

In My library, tap the Export all option above your saved items and choose the file format RefMan. This will download your references as an RIS file.

The process of importing files of references into Zotero, such as RIS format, is always the same. See elsewhere on this page for how to import those files.

Import RIS Files of References

In Zotero, under the File menu (PC) or Zotero menu (Mac), choose Import.

Follow the prompts in the pop-up box to confirm you want to import a file, then choose the file on your computer. RIS is the most common, but Zotero also supports other formats, such as BibTeX and nbib.

Confirm that you'd like to put the imported items into a new collection, to ensure you can locate them easily in your library. You can always rename or delete the collection later if you want to reorganize the references.

When the pop-up box confirms the import is complete, tap Finish. You'll see your collection of references in your library.

Import PDFs & Other Files

If you have files on your computer you'd like to add to Zotero, you can drag and drop them into your library. Most commonly these files are PDFs, but this process works with other file types as well.

To add a file to your library for which you don't yet have a reference, drag and drop the file on top of My Library at the top of the navigation pane, or onto any existing collection. Remember, even if you drop it on a collection, it will still be reflected in My Library. If the file you drop is a PDF, Zotero will first import it, then automatically use the PDF's metadata to create a reference, and finally attach the file to that reference.

In this example, a PDF file is dragged and dropped onto My Library.

That file, drag and drop habermann.pdf is imported and is now visible in the center pane.

Next, Zotero creates a reference, using the file's metadata, for the article "Sustainable Fictions" by Habermann and Kuhn. Finally, it renames the file and attaches it to the reference.

In some cases, you already have a reference in your Zotero library, and now want to add the full text PDF. To import and attach the file to the reference, drag and drop the file directly on top of that reference.

Add References by Unique Identifier

If you know the ISBN of a book, the DOI of an article, or one of a few other unique identifiers applied to publications, you can use the magic wand to add the reference. Tap the magic wand in the toolbar at the top of the center pane, enter the identifier, and press Enter on your keyboard. Zotero will locate and import the reference for you.