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Zotero Complete Guide

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

Creating Bibliographies

Creating Bibliographies

Quick Copy

If you just want to quickly add references to a paper, email, or blog post, Zotero's Quick Copy is the easiest way to go. Simply select items in the center column and drag them into any text field. Zotero will automatically create a formatted bibliography for you. See below: 

Quick Copy

 

To copy citations instead of references, hold down Shift at the start of the drag.

 

Copy Citation

To configure your Quick Copy preferences, open the Zotero preferences menu, and select Export.

Quick Copy Preferences

From this tab you can:

  • Set the default citation format for export 

  • Set up site-specific export settings 

  • Choose whether you want Zotero to include the HTML link when copying the citation 

 

You can also use Quick Copy keyboard shortcuts to copy citations and bibliographies to your system clipboard and then paste them into documents. Default shortcuts are Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-C (bibliography) and Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-A (citations).

Right-Click to Create Citation/Bibliography

To create a bibliography or a citations list in Zotero, highlight one or more references and then right-click (or control-click on Macs) to select “Create Bibliography from Selected Item(s)…”. Then select a citation style for your citation/bibliography format and choose either to create a list of Citations/Notes or a Bibliography. Then choose one of the following four ways to create your citation/bibliography:

  • Save as RTF will allow you to save the bibliography as a rich text file.

  • Save as HTML will allow you to save the bibliography as a HTML file for viewing in a web browser. This format will also embed metadata allowing other Zotero users viewing the document to capture bibliographic information.

  • Copy to Clipboard will allow you to save the bibliography to your clipboard to paste into any text field.

  • Print will send your bibliography straight to a printer.

RTF Scan

With RTF Scan, you can write in plain text, and use Zotero to finalize your citations and bibliographies in the style you want.

Word Processor Integration

Using Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, or Google Docs? Zotero's word processor integration allows you to add citations and bibliographies directly from your documents.

Word Processor Plugins

Word Processor Plugins

Of the different ways to automatically generate bibliographies (as well as in-text citations and footnotes), the easy-to-use word processor plugins are the most powerful. These plugins, available for Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, and Google Docs, create dynamic bibliographies: insert a new in-text citation in your manuscript, and the bibliography will be automatically updated to include the cited item. Correct the title of an item in your Zotero library and with a click of a button the change will be incorporated in your documents.

To get started with these plugins, check out the following links:

Third-party plugins are also available for integrating Zotero with other word processors and writing systems.

Video Guide

You can also get a taste of how these plugins work in action by watching screencasts of Zotero and Word (by Hannah Rempel, using the “Quick Format” version of the plugin) of Zotero and OpenOffice (by Ryan Guy, using the “classic” plugin). Note that these videos were made using older versions of Zotero; the Zotero Word plugin buttons look somewhat different in newer versions.

Citation Styles

Citation Styles

Installing Additional Styles

Zotero Style Repository

  • You can install styles from the Zotero Style Repository by clicking on the “Get additional styles…” option in the Zotero Style Manager (in the Cite pane of Zotero preferences). Search for the style you want and click the style title to install it into Zotero. You can also visit the Zotero Style Repository webpage in Firefox or Chrome with the Zotero Connector plugin installed to install styles directly into Zotero.
  • The repository allows you to search by style name, and filter by style type and academic field of study. By checking the box “Show only unique styles”, duplicate styles that share the exact same format are hidden (e.g. for the journal-specific styles “Nature”, “Nature Biotechnology”, “Nature Chemistry”, etc., only the independent “Nature” style is shown).

Alternative Installation Methods

  • You can also install CSL styles (with a “.csl” extension) from local files on your computer (e.g., styles that you edit yourself or that you download from another website). In the Zotero Style Manager, click the '+' button, then find the style file on your computer.

Managing and Editing Styles

You can remove installed styles by clicking the '-' button in the Zotero Style Manager. From this tab, you can also preview style output for the selected items in Zotero and edit installed styles.

Reporting Style Errors

If a CSL style doesn’t give the expected output, first make sure that you are running the latest (stable) version of Zotero, and have the most recent version of the style installed from the Zotero Style Repository. Once you have made sure that the style deviates from the style guide, instructions for authors, or published examples, report the error to the Zotero forums. For your post, use the title “Style Error: [Name of style]”, and give a link to, or excerpt from, the style guide that shows that the CSL style is wrong. You can also try to edit the style yourself.

Requesting New Styles

If you can't find the style you're looking for in the Zotero Style Repository, feel free to request a style. When requesting styles, please provide formatted references for the Campbell/Pedersen article and the Mares chapter listed on the linked page. Please also provide a link to a free-to-access article using the style (if available). You can also try to create the style yourself.

Questions

Reports

Reports

Reports are simple HTML pages that give an overview of the item metadata, notes, and attachments of the selected items. You can print them, post them to the web, and email them.

Example report

Generating Reports

To create a report, right-click (ctrl-click on macOS) an item or a selection of items in the center pane and select “Generate Report from Selected Item(s)…”. You can also right-click a collection in the left column and select “Generate Report from Collection”.

Generate report from collection

Sharing and Printing Reports

Reports can be saved by selecting “File → Save…” in the File menu, and printed by selecting File → “Print…”.

Working with and Searching Reports

To copy text from a report, highlight the text and type Ctr/Cmd-C or select “Copy” from the “Edit” menu. Searching currently does not work in the Zotero Report Viewer. However, if you save a Report to your computer (“File → Save…”), you can open it in your browser and search there.

Sort Order

By default reports sort items alphabetically by title in ascending order. Sorting within the Zotero report window is not currently possible (see below. You can, however, customize the sort order for reports by generating them from a Collection or Saved Search.

If you right-click on a collection or Saved Search in Zotero's left pane, then choose “Generate Report from Collection/Saved Search”, Zotero will use the current sort order of the columns in the Zotero center pane for the report. To generate a report for an entire library, first make a Saved Search with the parameters: Title contains %, then right-click on this Saved Search

Customizing Reports

It's not currently possible to customize which fields are included in Reports within Zotero itself, but there are third-party options for doing so.

Uses for Reports

Reviewing Abstracts

  • If you need to review a large number of papers' titles, authors, and abstracts (e.g., if you are conducting a systematic review using Zotero), reports can provide a convenient layout for reading the abstracts and writing notes in the margins.

Teaching

  • Reports can also be used in teaching to track and assess students during the process of collecting information and writing. Reports show when items were collected, how students associate their items with notes and tags, and how students are interpreting their research items. Reports can also be a useful tool for discussing sources with students and guiding the research, organization, and writing process.

Organizing Notes into Outlines

  • While Zotero has not been designed to be an outlining tool, you can create outlines from notes. By default, reports list child notes together with their parent items. To include child notes in your outline and separate them from their parent items, change the “extensions.zotero.report.combineChildItems” hidden preference to “false”.
  • Then, to build your outline, add an outline number at the beginning of each note you want to include, e.g. 1.1, 1.2, 2.1. Select the notes in Zotero, then right-click and generate a report from them.
  • If you are working with a large number of notes and you do not want to manually select each one, Tags and Advanced Searches can make life easier. First, tag each note with a description, such as “chapter one” or “methods”. Then create an Advanced Search for “Item Type” “is” “Note” and “Tag” “is” “chapter one”. Save the Advanced Search, then right-click the Saved Search and choose “Generate Report from Saved Search…”. This will create a report including only the notes tagged “chapter one”.

Disabled Features

Zotero 5.0 opens reports in a window without an address bar or a right-click menu. As a result, several features that were previously available in Zotero for Firefox are currently disabled.

  • Sorting (but see the workaround above)

  • Searching (but see the workaround above)

  • Copying from right-click menu (but see available methods above)