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Citation Management Software - Zotero

A guide to getting started with Zotero, a free, open source citation management tool.

Citing sources using Zotero

There are several ways that you can generate citations using Zotero. You can create bibliographies directly from Zotero, or you can use the Zotero Microsoft Word plugin. You can also generate citations using Zotero in Google Docs. Remember to make sure that all the information about the items you'd like to cite is correct in Zotero so your citations will be generated correctly!

Copy citations from Zotero

Bibliographies can be created from a single item, several items, or entire collections. Right-click (or control + click on a Mac) on any item(s) you would like to generate a citation for and click on "Create Bibliography from Item(s)..." (or "Create Bibliography from Collection..." if you are creating citations for items in a collection): 

Screenshot of create bibliography from item menu

This will give you the option to specify your citation style, allowing you to choose from options like APA, Chicago, or MLA style. Then you will pick which output mode you would like. Clicking on "Citations" will generate an in-text citation while clicking on "Bibliography" will generate a full citation. Lastly, you will pick your output method: You can save your citations as an RTF or HTML file, copy it to your clipboard (and then paste it into a document of your choice), or print your citations.

Cite in Microsoft Word

The Microsoft Word plugin should be installed automatically when you download Zotero. You may need to restart Microsoft Word if you have it open already. The plugin also works with LibreOffice. 

You should see a Zotero tab in Microsoft Word. Click here to see your options for adding citations and a bibliography to your Word document. You will need to have the Zotero desktop application open while you are using the Microsoft Word plugin. 

Screenshot of Zotero tab in Microsoft Word

Click on "Add/Edit Citation" to add your in-text citations as you write your paper. The first time you do this, there will be a popup asking you which citation style you want to use. Then you can search for the item you want to cite. You can search by title, author, or any other information associated with the item. 

Screenshot of search box for Zotero Word plugin

Select the item you want to cite and then press the enter key to finish inserting the in-text citation into your document. 

Click on "Add/Edit Bibliography" to create a bibliography of all the items you have cited throughout your paper. If you need to make any edits to the citation, make the corrections in Zotero and then click on "Refresh" to update the bibliography in your Word document.  


The Word plugin should be installed automatically, but if you are having difficulty getting it to appear, refer to the following links:

Cite in Google Docs

If you have downloaded the Zotero Connector web importer plugin for Chrome or Firefox, you can use Zotero in Google Docs. A Zotero menu will appear in the Google Docs interface. You will need to have the Zotero desktop application open while you are using the Zotero plugin for Google Docs.

Screenshot of Zotero menu in Google Docs

You should also see a toolbar button for one-click citing. 

Screenshot of Zotero toolbar button in Google Docs

The first time you use the Zotero functionality in a document, you will be be prompted to authenticate the plugin with your Google account.

To begin citing, click on the "Add/Edit Zotero Citation" button in the Google Docs toolbar or select "Add/Edit Citation" from the Zotero menu. Just like when you are using the Microsoft Word plugin, a search box will pop up where you can search for the item you want to cite. Select the item you want to cite and press the enter key. Click on "Add/Edit Bibliography" from the Zotero menu to create a bibliography of all the items items you have cited in your document. 

Changing Citation Styles

Sometimes you may need to change which citation style you are using after the fact. Say you initially wrote your paper with APA citations but you are asked to change it to a different citation style. You can do this at any time in either Word or Google Docs by clicking on "Document preferences".

Document Preferences Microsoft Word

Once the "Document Preferences" window opens up, you will see a list of all the different citation styles. Click on the one you'd like to switch your document to and click on "OK". Your document should refresh and your in-text citations and bibliography will be updated to reflect your new citation style.

Document Preferences window: Citation style