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This page will offer more in-depth information about the reference manager Zotero. We also offer an online tutorial on this reference manager.

Zotero is a free open-source tool that you can download to your own computer or use online to collect your sources and cite them. At the moment it is only possible to download Zotero on a university computer by requesting it via the ISSC. This is the paid version of Zotero, which offers more storage.

Add and manage references in Zotero

There are several ways of adding references to your Zotero library. These are explained below.

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. 

The 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, click on done and you will find the source in your reference list. 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 all the information in the right-hand pane. Make sure to be as thorough as possible. Empty fields can lead to errors in your citations. 

To import BibTeX or RIS references, you first have to get the file. You can download an RIS or BiBTeX file from the catalogue entry by clicking on Export BIBTEX or Export RIS. It does not matter which encoding you choose. Download the file. To import the file, select File à Import à A File (BibTex, RIS, Zotero, RDF, etc.). Now choose the right file in your explorer.  

If you want your file to be added to a new 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 File. If you remove this check mark your reference will be added to the general library.   

Next, make sure that you choose to copy the file to the 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.  

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 into 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.  

Make sure to always double check your imported references. If there are empty fields you may end up with incomplete references.  

PDFs in Unpaywall

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. 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. Be aware that you have to activate this feature in your preferences. This will be explained below. 

Choose a citation style and set your preferences

To set your Zotero preferences, navigate to Edit à 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 Cite you can add your preferred citation style and choose whether URLS of printed articles have to be included in your references.  

This is also where you can set your preferred citation style. Your style of choice will be automatically applied to every Word document. If you want to use another style, you can select another one in your document, via the Zotero button. This button also allows you to edit styles, and to get style previews. 

Under Advanced you can decide where your library is stored, decide on shortcuts and fill in how often your library has to be synced. 

Create in-text citations or footnotes and a bibliography

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

The Zotero Word plugin is included with your Zotero download. If it is not the case, go to Preferences à Cite à  Word Processors and click on Reinstall Microsoft Word Add-in. 

The Word plugin makes it easy to cite your sources. It is usually directly synced with your style of choice, but you can also choose another style for your papers than your preferred one. While writing, simply click on Add/ Edit Citation and select the right source. This adds it as a citation.  

If you want to include the page number in your reference, make sure to select the source and then add the page number, which will then be added automatically to your citation. Adding more citations, or rearranging them, will result in a re-ordering of the bibliography. 

There are many different referencing styles, for many different disciplines (for instance APA, Chicago, MLA). Zotero has many citation styles available, and it is very easy to replace one style with another.  Simply click on Document Preferences again and change the style. This will automatically update all references. Therefore, if you need to correct or update a reference, it is better to replace the old citation and add a new one instead of changing things manually in the footnotes, as these changes will not be synchronized when choosing another style.  

To create a bibliography for your work simply click on Add/ Edit Bibliography and you will get a list of all your used sources. 

Further Options

You can share your library via the Zotero website. To do so you have to create a new group and invite members. You can choose between a private group and one of two types of public groups. Only members can join a private group and they must be invited to join. Anyone can join a standard public group. An alternative is to create a public group with a closed membership, where 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: 

PDF: Zotero automatically downloads the PDF of your sources if available. If your PDF file has been imported, you can double click on the PDF symbol and the article will open in a new tab.  Here, you can mark the text and leave notes directly in the desired spot. 

Notes: You can always leave notes next to your article. However, if you have a PDF of your text, you can make notes on specific parts of said text. You also have the option to highlight the text. It is possible to create notes from these highlighted parts. To do so, open the PDF by double clicking on the entry you want to open and click on the notepad symbol on the upper right corner.  There you can click on the small grey plus 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. So you might want to delete the earlier version of the note. 

Tags: Tag your articles for easier navigation. 

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

More information

We also offer our own online tutorial on Zotero: Tutorial Zotero

For a more extensive guide, you can visit the Zotero website.

If you have any more questions about this topic, please visit Ask a Librarian

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