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Working with Zotero

Read all about the most important functionalities of Zotero.

Installing Zotero

Zotero is available on all university computers via the Software Center. To download Zotero on your own device, go to the Zotero website to download the software.

Adding references

There are several ways to add references to your Zotero library, which are explained below. To organise these references, Zotero allows you to sort them into collections.

A very easy way to add sources to your library is by clicking on the wand icon and filling in the ISBN or DOI of the source. You can do the same with a PMID (PubMed IDentifier), arXiv, ID or ADS bibcode.

If you are already in possession of the PDF of your source, you can easily drag and drop it into your library.

Zotero Connector allows you to save websites and articles directly to your library. Simply open the website you want to store, click on the Zotero symbol, choose the collection you want to add it to and click on done to add it to your library. Zotero will automatically save the date on which you accessed the reference, so whenever you reference the website in your paper this date will automatically be added.

To add sources manually, click on the green plus button and choose the type of source you want to add. Fill in the necessary information in the right-hand pane. Make sure to be as thorough as possible. Empty fields can lead to errors in your citations.

Many databases offer the possibility to download BibTeX and RIS files. For example, to import a BibTeX or RIS file into Zotero from the Leiden University Libraries catalogue, click on Export BIBTEX or Export RIS. It does not matter which encoding you choose. Download the file. To import the file into Zotero, select File -> Import -> A File (BibTex, RIS, Zotero, RDF, etc.). Now choose the right file in your explorer.

You can also download a collection of BiBTeX or RIS files. To do this, in the University Library Catalogue, add all the sources you want to save to your Zotero library to your favourites. Check all of the sources you want to add and then click on the three dots on top and Export all as a BibTex or RIS.

If you want your file to be added to a new folder (collection), make sure the check mark next to Place imported collections and items into new collection is still there. This will add a new subfolder to your library with the title of your RIS or BibTex file. If you remove this check mark your reference will be added to the general library.  

Next, make sure that you choose Copy files to Zotero storage folder. (If you choose Link to the original location instead, your library cannot sync these files on other devices.) Finally, click on next to import the reference.


Zotero collaborates with Unpaywall. Therefore, if you add new sources to your library, Zotero automatically searches for the PDF within Unpaywall and will automatically add it to your library if available.

Are you within the Leiden University network? Then Zotero will recognise when you have access to a source. Furthermore, Zotero recognizes when you should have access to a source, for instance when you are using a Leiden University IP address. All sources the University Library gives you access to will automatically be downloaded.


Apart from storing and organising references, Zotero can be used to insert references into your Word document. Referencing properly helps you keep your reasoning transparent and give credit to the authors of the work you used.

The Zotero citation plugin is included with your Zotero download. If this is not the case, go to Preferences ->  Cite ->  Word Processors and select the plugin you would like to install.

Zotero has many citation styles available and it is very easy to replace one style with another. You can set up your preferred style in your Zotero application, via Edit -> Preferences -> Cite. This applies your style of choice to every document. You can always select another style in your document, via Zotero -> Document Preferences. This button also allows you to edit styles and get style previews. Upon selecting a different style for your document, all references will automatically be updated.

NB: Always use the Zotero menu to correct or update your references. Manual changes will not be synchronised when you choose another style.

The Zotero plugin makes it easy to cite your sources. While writing, simply click on Add/ Edit Citation and select the right source to add a citation.

To include a page number in your reference, select the source and click Add/Edit Citation to add the page number.

To create a bibliography simply click on Add/ Edit Bibliography to generate a list of sources you cited. The bibliography will automatically update when you add or edit references.

Further options

To set your Zotero preferences, navigate to Edit -> Preferences. Under General you can choose whether you want Zotero to automatically add metadata to your PDFs or download PDFs automatically. Under Sync you can choose how often your library has to be synced and with which account. Under Advanced you can decide where your library is stored and decide on shortcuts. Under Cite you can add your preferred citation style and choose whether URLS of printed articles have to be included in your references.

You can share your library via the Zotero website. To do so you have to create a new group and invite members. There are three different options for groups:

  • A private group is an invite-only group. You have to invite your peers to this group to give them access
  • Anyone can join a standard public group.
  • For a public group with a closed membership, members have to apply or must be invited before they join.

Members will be able to see your references in the group and can add references themselves.

Once you have added some references to your library you can add extra information to them:


You can add notes to your references using the Notes option. Additionally, you can highlight and annotate your PDFs. 

It is possible to create notes from these highlighted parts. To do so, open the PDF by double clicking on the entry and click on the notepad symbol in the upper right corner.  Click the grey plus icon and choose Add Note from Annotations. All highlighted parts will now be shown in one note. However, be aware that if you add new highlights, these will not automatically be included in the note. You will have to make a new note, in which you will again find all the highlighted parts.


Tag your articles for easier navigation.


Connect related articles, or articles that you plan to discuss in the same paper, chapter or book you are writing.

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