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Learn how to use the free citation management software Zotero.

Option 1. Adding items to your Zotero using Zotero Plug-in

Import an item using the Zotero browser plugin/extension

  • Pros: One-click addition, can add webpages and other media easily, works with most browsers
  • Cons: Must have Zotero Desktop open, Must sync with desktop to work properly, preferred browser is Firefox, Safari, or Chrome

Basic Instructions on Importing Using Zotero Plug-in

  1. Open Zotero Desktop on your computer. Open the Chrome or Firefbox browser and make sure your Zotero plug-in icon is in the upper right corner. You should also make sure your account is synced. Select the General Library in your Zotero Desktop. 
  2. In your browser window, go to the article you would like to add to Zotero as a source. Usually, this will be the page with the most citation information. The Zotero plug-in icon will change depending on the source you find. For example, an article will change in the Zotero icon to a sheet of paper icon.
  3. Click the Zotero plug-in icon in your browser window. A pop-up should confirm that the item as been added to your Zotero library. If you selected a folder before clicking the plug-in, that is where your item will be saved to in Zotero Desktop.
  4. Look in your Zotero Desktop and confirm the source's citation information has been saved.

Video Instructions on Importing Sources Using Zotero Plug-in

Option 2: Adding items to your Zotero by Importing the RIS File

Import an item using a RIS file

  • Pros: Most databases have RIS under Export or Save, gives you options on what metadata to import (abstracts, citations only, etc.)
    • Pro: Can be very useful if the Zotero connectors isn't working well with a particular database
  • Cons: Extra step with downloading the file and opening/importing to Zotero, hard to keep track of what has been added already

Basic Instructions on Importing Using RIS Files

  1. Find the article, book, or item in a database
  2. Located RIS file option (usually on right or left hand side of webpage under "Export" or "Save" options)
  3. Download RIS file to desktop folder
  4. Go to Zotero Desktop/Standalone application and import file from folder
  • Bonus: Set Zotero as default program for all RIS file types: Windows, Mac

This process can be reversed to export citations as RIS file

  • This allows you to collaborate with others who may have a different citation management software
  • It allows you to create a backup of your data in RIS format 

Video Instructions for Importing Using RIS Files


Option 3. Adding Custom Items to Zotero

Create a custom item in Zotero

  • Pros: Change any information you want about the item, import unique items like artwork, forum posts, etc.
  • Cons: Takes more time to edit, possible mistakes when exporting to bibliography

Basic Instructions on Adding Custom Items in Zotero:

  1. Find item and decide what fields need to be added to library (author, title, journal name, etc.)
  2. Go to Zotero Desktop/Standalone > click Import icon 
  3. Choose related item type
  4. Enter information in metadata fields (author, title, journal name, etc.)
  5. Press "Enter" or "Return" key when done editing fields