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Getting started[edit]

Go to the official Zotero web site and download the latest release. There are two different options for how to install it -- as a Firefox plugin which will work on almost any system which can run Firefox, or as a stand-alone program for Microsoft Windows. If you choose the latter option, make sure to also install the plugin for whichever browser you plan to use it with. If you would also like to use Zotero to add references to text documents, you can also download plugins for LibreOffice and Microsoft Office. After installing everything, restart your browser if needed.

You should now see a small Zotero logo in the lower right of your browser window. Open it up, and you will see three large panels. The left panel keeps track of different folders of references, called collections. By default has only a single root folder called My Library. If you want to make sub-folders right click on the root folder and go to New Collection. The middle panel will show information on all the references in the collection you have selected, and the right panel will show information on any reference you select.

Full documentation for Zotero is available on the Zotero support website.

Adding references to Zotero[edit]

Now you can add a reference to your collection. To see how this works go to a book listing on WorldCat. On the right side of the address bar in your browser, you should see a small book icon. Clicking on it will save the book's bibliographic information to the current folder in Zotero. This will work even if you don't have the Zotero window open. If you know what item you need to reference, it doesn't matter where you find a listing for it -- you can also generate a reference from the book's listing on

Zotero works for many different types of references. You can add this BBC story this patent or this print. For some pages, like this Wired article, Zotero doesn't know how to build a specific reference for that article, but will do the best it can. Adding this page creates a reference which has includes the correct title and abstract, but doesn't pick up the author or publication date. This is because no one has had a chance to write a translator specific to, but new ones are being created all the time. In the meantime, you can always edit the reference to fill in the rest of the information manually.

Adding references into Wikipedia articles[edit]

First, set your default output style in Zotero to the Wikipedia citation format. To do this, open the Zotero window, click on the gear icon, and select Preferences. Click on the Export tab, which looks like a clipboard. On the Default output format drag-down menu, select Wikipedia Citation Templates and click OK.

Now open an edit window for the Wikipedia article you want to add a reference for. Go ahead and add the information you want to reference or find it, and add empty <ref></ref> tags where the reference should go. For example

In some situations it is possible to cool an object by heating its exterior.<ref></ref>

Now open up Zotero and drag the reference you want in between the ref tags. This should result in something like this:

In some situations it is possible to cool an object by heating its exterior.<ref>{{Cite journal
| doi = 10.1103/PhysRevX.2.041015
| volume = 2
| issue = 4
| pages = 041015
| last = Papini
| first = Jon J.
| coauthors = Jeppe C. Dyre, Tage Christensen
| title = “Cooling by Heating”—Demonstrating the Significance of the Longitudinal Specific Heat
| journal = Physical Review X
| accessdate = 2013-02-05
| date = 2012-11-29
| url =

If you want to save space you can put all the information of the reference on a single line. Save the page and you will get something like this:

In some situations it is possible to cool an object by heating its exterior.[1]

And that's it! If some big red errors show up don't despair -- this probably means that the page doesn't have a place to display the references yet. Near the bottom of the page you can add a section with the {{Reflist}} tag, which will create a bibliography. You can also copy the citation information to the clipboard by hitting CTRL - ALT - C when you have an item selected in Zotero.


  1. ^ Papini, Jon J. (2012-11-29). ""Cooling by Heating"—Demonstrating the Significance of the Longitudinal Specific Heat". Physical Review X. 2 (4): 041015. doi:10.1103/PhysRevX.2.041015. Retrieved 2013-02-05.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)