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Zotero Complete Guide

The MGH IHP's complete guide to using and getting the most out of Zotero

Adding Items into Your Library

Adding Items Into Your Library

Zotero logo. The letter Z is in burgundy and the remaining letters are in black.

This page describes the ways you can add items (e.g., books, journal articles, web pages, etc.) into your Zotero library.

Via Your Web Browser

Using the Zotero Connector's save button is a convenient way to add items to your Zotero library. To use, you need to install the Zotero Connector for Chrome or Firefox, in addition to the Zotero desktop app. Click here to download!

The Zotero Connector will automatically find bibliographic information on webpages you visit, and allow you to add it to Zotero with a single click. 

For example, if you are reading a journal article online, the save button in the top right corner will change to the icon of a journal article: 

Journal article icon with red circle around the icon and a red arrow pointing to the icon.

Click on this icon to create an item in Zotero with the information it has identified.

If the PDF has open-access, Zotero will also save the PDF file. A window will pop-up where you can designate the location in Zotero that you would like to save: 

Pop-up that will appear when saving to My Library on Zotero.

Saving to a Specific Collection or Library

After you click the save button, a popup will appear indicating which Zotero collection the item is being saved to. If you want to save the item to a different collection or library, you can change the section there, as well as enter tags to assign to the new item.  

Zotero Saving Preferences Box Image, showing where to save to a collection (upper right corner) and where to add tags (bottom left corner).

Generic Web Pages

Some webpages may not provide information that Zotero can recognize and save. If so, the save button will show gray webpage icon. This action will save the page in "Web Page" format (title, URL & access date). 

Grey Webpage Zotero Icon located in the upper right corner of your browser.

PDFs

If you are viewing a PDF file in your browser, the save button will show a PDF icon. The PDF icon will import the file into your Zotero library, then automatically attempt to retrieve information about it. According to the Zotero website, it is usually better to use the save button as described above. 

Multiple Results from Search

Some webpages may contain information about multiple items, such as a list of  search results. In this case, the save button will display a folder icon.  Clicking on this icon will give you an option of selecting multiple items to save to Zotero. See below: 

Image showing how to select multiple items to add to your Zotero library.

Via Item Identifier: 

If you already know the item's ISBN, Digital Object Identifier (DOI), or PubMed ID, you can add the item through the Zotero. 

To add an item using an identified, click the “Add Item by Identifier” button at the top of the center column of the Zotero pane.

Item Identifier - Enter

Type or paste in the identifier, and press Enter/Return. 

To enter multiple identifiers at once, type the first identifier, then press Shift+Enter/Return, and type the remaining identifiers (one on each line). 

Then press Shift+Enter/Return again, to import all the items at once.

Zotero uses the following databases for looking up item metadata:

for ISBNS: Library of Congress and WorldCat

for DOIs: CrossRef 

for PubMed IDs: NCBI PubMed

Via Item Identifier

If you already know the item's ISBN, Digital Object Identifier (DOI), or PubMed ID, you can add the item through the Zotero. 

To add an item using an identified, click the “Add Item by Identifier” button at the top of the center column of the Zotero pane.

Image with a moving cursor showing how to locate the item identifier in Zotero.

Type or paste in the identifier, and press Enter/Return. 

To enter multiple identifiers at once, type the first identifier, then press Shift+Enter/Return, and type the remaining identifiers (one on each line). 

Screenshot image of the item identifier text box in Zotero.

Then press Shift+Enter/Return again, to import all the items at once.

Zotero uses the following databases for looking up item metadata:

for ISBNS: Library of Congress and WorldCat

for DOIs: CrossRef 

for PubMed IDs: NCBI PubMed

Adding Files Into Your Library

Adding Files Into Your Library

This page describes the ways you can add, store and sync files into your Zotero library.

Child vs. Standalone Attachment Files

Files can be added either as standalone items or as child items to your Zotero metadata items.

Zotero recommends adding files as child items since standalone items cannot be used with some of Zotero's key features like citing and searching. 

Stored Files and Linked Files

Files can be added either as stored files or linked files.  The Zotero program uses stored files as the default, which are automatically managed and deleted if you delete an attachment item in your library. 

When using the file syncing feature, Zotero will sync stored files between devices and make them available in your online library. If you add a stored file from your computer, it will be copied to the Zotero Data Directory. 

Linked files are stored to location of the file on your computer, and are not synced. Linked files are not deleted when the item is deleted in your Zotero library. Linked files cannot be used within a "group library." Zotero recommends the third-party plugin ZotFile to help with linked file management. 

External tools, such as Dropbox, may be used for file storage and management. If using one of these tools, Zotero recommends setting up the linked attachment base directory so that linked files can be found easily by Zotero.

To convert files from linked files to stored files click on the File menu dropdown and select Manage Attachments.

Importing from other Programs

Importing From Other Programs

You can also import libraries into Zotero from other reference management software, like Endnote, Reference Manager, Citavi, RefWorks, Mendeley, Papers, and others. 

First, export the bibliographic data from your other reference management program. 

Next, click the File menu and click "Import

Screenshot image showing the "File" dropdown menu to select "Import".

Click "Continue" on the pop-up shown below, and then locate your exported file on your computer. 

Screenshot image of the "Import" window.

Zotero can import files formatted as: 

  • Zotero RDF
  • CSL JSON
  • MODS (Metadata Object Description Schema)
  • BibTeX
  • RIS
  • Refer/BibIX
  • Unqualified Dublin Core RDF
  • Endnote XML
  • XML ContextObject
  • Web of Science Tagged
  • MEDLINE/nbib

Once you've located your file, click "Open" to add into your Zotero library.

Another pop-up will appear with more options as shown below. 

Screenshot image of the "Import" window including options. 

For more detailed instructions on switching from other reference management software to Zotero, see the links below: 

To switch from Mendeley to Zotero, see Importing Records From Mendeley

To switch from Endnote to Zotero, see Importing Records From EndNote.

To switch from Citavi to Zotero, see Importing Records From Citavi.‚Äč

Please note: Zotero states that the import/export feature is not recommended for transferring entire Zotero libraries between different computers or installations. Click here for more help with this.