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Zotero Complete Guide

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

Retrieve PDF Metadata

Retrieving PDF Metadata

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

This page describes the ways you can retrieve metadata from the PDFs saved in your Zotero library.

Many researchers new to Zotero already have a large collection of PDFs that they've previously organized with other programs or methods. Zotero has systems in place to make it easier to import these PDFs and retrieve full bibliographic metadata (for searching, citing, indexing, and organizing), making the switch to Zotero easier. 

The Retrieve Metadata feature uses a Zotero webs service to find item metadata.
The Zotero client sends the first few pages of a PDF to the web service, which uses a variety of extraction algorithms and known metadata from Crossref, and DOI and ISBN lookups, to build a parent item for the PDF.
The Zotero lookup service doesn't require a Zotero account and doesn't collect data about search results or content. 

You can follow these steps provided by Zotero to use the "Retrieve Metadata" function for PDFs: 

First, drag your existing PDFs into your Zotero library.

Drag file from folder to zotero library

You can also use the "Store Copy of File" or "Link to File" options from the Add New Item menu (the green plus sign): 

Use Link to File feature

Zotero will automatically retrieve metadata for PDFs and rename the associated files. If you prefer, you can disable these automatic function in the general pane of Zotero preferences. Uncheck the box shown under "File Handling
Disable "file handling".
If you've disabled automatic metadata retrieval from the menu shown above, or if you have other PDF files already in your library needing updated metadata, you can also retrieve the metadata manually by following these steps: 
1. In the middle pane, select the PDFs you want to retrieve metadata for.
2. Right click on the PDF and select "Retrieve Metadata for PDF" as shown below. 
Click "Retrieve Metadata for PDF".
If Zotero can find a match for the item, it will create a full Zotero item with the available data and attach the PDF. 
If Zotero cannot find a match for the item, you can right-click on it and choose "Create Parent Item" to manually enter the item metadata in the right-hand pane. 
Create Parent Item                         Edit Metadata Manually - Zotero
 
Zotero suggests using the Retrieve Metadata feature to help facilitate importing existing libraries of PDFs, but notes that it is not the best way to add items generally. Zotero suggests using the Connector plugin to quickly important items from publisher websites and scholarly databases for less steps and higher-quality metadata.