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Developed by the Center for History and New Media at the George Mason University, Virginia, Zotero is an open source easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.

In order for Zotero to produce accurate citations and bibliographies, it is extremely important that you ensure that each item is given complete and accurate metadata in Zotero, including classifying each as the correct item type. Often this will require manual edits. If Zotero contains incomplete or inaccurate information, your citations will be inaccurate.

Zotero Navigation Icons

The following Icons are being used by Zotero to explain different functionalities and applications:

From left to right:

Zotero allows you to organize your records into collections. Each collection might correspond to a research project or a specific area of interest or chapter of your thesis. “My Library” will always contain a master list of all of your records. These records are listed alphabetically. 

To create a New Collection, click on the folder icon Zotero folder/collection icon located in the left panel. You will be prompted to give your collection a name. You can also add sub-collections within collections by creating a new collection, then dragging it into a collection. You can then add items to this collection, either by dragging them from the center pane over to the new collection, or by uploading the item to Zotero while the collection is open (highlighted).

Zotero's Groups feature allows you to share references with other Zotero users online. It's a great way to work on collaborative research projects. Find out how you can benefit from Zotero groups.

Often you will need to add items by hand. This is especially important when using archival or other print materials not available on the web, or when working with nonstandard item types, such as reports, images, podcasts, or forum postings. 

To manually add an item to your Zotero library, select the New Item icon add new item, then select the appropriate item type from the More menu. Make sure you manually capture all the elements needed for an accurate "in text citation" and bibliography.

Sometimes the easiest and most accurate way to add an item to your Zotero library is to use the Add Item by Identifier feature. Click the Add Item(s) by Identifier icon add item by identifier wand icon then type in the ISBN of a book or a DOI or PMID of a journal article. Zotero will look for the corresponding item and create a complete record automatically.

To create a note attached to an item, select the item from the list in the center column and either click the “New Note” button at the top of the center column () and select “Add Child Note”, or go to the “Notes” tab in the right-hand column and click the “Add” button.

A note will be created as an attachment to the item (it will also show up under the “Notes” tab), and a note editor will appear in the right-hand column. You can create a dedicated window for the editor by clicking the “Edit in a separate window” button at the bottom of the editor. Text in notes is saved as you type.
Zotero will sometimes automatically import information from a resource, such as a table of contents or abstract, into the notes of an item. Use the editor to change or delete these entries.

Standalone Notes - Standalone notes are not directly related to any item in your library, and will appear in the list of items in your library. To create a standalone note, click the “New Note” button and select “New Standalone Note”.

Zotero will usually be able to save the PDF along with the citation, if the PDF of an article is available from the database. It appears as a “child item” under the citation in the middle column.

If this doesn’t happen automatically, you can download the PDF yourself and save it, on your computer, then add it to the citation by dragging and dropping its icon onto the citation.

This button will allow you to search through your library using flexible advanced features within the various indexed fields of your record.

Zotero Layout

There are three panels (columns) in the Zotero screen. Each displaying an important aspect of your Zotero library.

  • Left column: Organization - My Library, along with folders you create - by subject, item type, idea, etc.
  • Center column: The list of items in My Library (all references) or the references in the folders you created
  • Right column: Detailed information about a specific reference you selected in the center column