How to begin with Zotero - Reference Manager?

Zotero is one of the popular reference manager available on Mac, Windows and Linux Operating Systems. It's a free, open-source and easier reference manager that helps to organize, collect, cite and share research.

How to begin with Zotero - Reference Manager?
Zotero logo

Let's download the software first. Go to Zotero site: and download the application on your PC.

Install once download completed running the setup (.exe) file.

Also install Zotero Connectors, a plugin to the browser that help save document from the web directly to Zotero.

Open the Zotero Application in your PC. Initially it's empty with 'My Library' folder.

Your added articles as your profile can be seen inside My Publication. Any references found more than one in the Duplicate Items and any references that not included in any collection are placed into Unfiled Items. Any references you deleted found in 'Bin'. Main window in middle shows the list of references. Right windows gives detail once one is selected.

There are options where you can add new folder, new library or references manually by yourself with green '+' sign with dropdown menu or by using an identifier just right to it; adding notes and advance search to quickly find references in library.

Adding References to Zotero

You can do either way among 3 to add references to Zotero.

  • Adding references Manually: Enter each information about document by yourself via '+' sign.
  • Adding references with an identifier: Enter identifier number of the document so, application itself collect the information via online. ISBNs, DOI, PMIDs or arXiv IDs help add references. It's a lot quicker than manually and lots of information/details it can provides. Open access document can be downloaded represented by blue dots in right corner of the row. And arrow in left side on click shows the full text document and link to related URL. You can open clicking the pdf.
  • Using Zotero Connector: For this to happen connection option should be shown in your browser in the top saying ' Save to Zotero'. Select library you want to import to.
From duplicate Item you can remove the one with limited details. Select one as master document and remove other. When no duplication, the duplicate Items page remain empty.

Organizing References in Zotero 
  1. Creating a Collection. References of specific field or subject can be placed together. Click on folder icon in top left corner of Zotero and give appropriate name for the collection. Same reference can be placed in many collection.
  2. Creating a sub-collection inside collection further makes easier to find literature of specify kind inside given collection.
  3. Adding tag to the references: Click on one of reference and in right window go to 'Tags' tab and add/select the suitable tag for the references. Selecting tags later helps to sort all the documents with same tag appears from small window in left bottom corner. Renaming the tags and coloring the tag file also possible.
  4. Automatic tags are also added when references added using Zotero Connector plugin from the browser. You can delete those auto generated tags.
  5. Adding Related References: The documents depending on same experiment or research are placed under related using 'Add. button in 'Related' tabs in right window.
  6. Adding Notes for each references from 'Notes' tab in right windows. then  click on 'Add' button to add notes.

 Ways to use Zotero in Microsoft Word.
  1. On installation of Zotero in your PC you would see 'Zotero' tab in MS word. If not seen try re-installing the word add-in. For that go the 'Edit' tabs in Zotero Application inside click on 'Preferences' then select  'Cite' button at the top and go to word processors tab below then you see the option to reinstall the Microsoft word add-in. Select that and then restart the software.
  2. In word in Zotero tab you would be able to see a set of options like Add/Edit citation; Add/Edit Bibliography, Document preferences, etc.
  3. Adding citation for the first time makes you select citation style, once selected (say APA) you are allow select one out of the list available in your Zotero.
  4. Adding Bibliography or references. Select place to insert and click on 'Add/Edit bibliography'.
  5. The citation and references are linked with Zotero on 'Unlink Citation' the imported converted into plain text.
You can change citation and references style anytime from Zotero application 'Edit' tab --> Preferences --> Cite --> Select from 'Styles' or import or Style Editor for custom style.

I hope this article help you understand how to begin with Zotero, manage your references and working in connection with MS word. If you still confused feel free to comment down below.