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Zotero Citation Manager

Zotero is a free, open source citation manager that can help you organize your research sources and properly format your paper.

Use Zotero with your word processor

Zotero integrates with your word processor to help create properly formatted citations and bibliographies using the items in your library. Remember that getting these right depends on having the information entered correctly! You'll still have to know your citation style so you can  check the results from Zotero, as with any citation manager. An overview of how to use Zotero in your documents follows. For a more complete guide, see these documents from Zotero support:


If you've installed Zotero and the Zotero Connector, integration with your word processor should already be set up!

A Zotero plug-in for Word is installed with the Zotero program. If you need to re-install it for any reason, you can do so from the Zotero preferences window.

Zotero support for Google Docs is installed to your browser with the Zotero Connector. The first time you use any Zotero feature, you will be prompted to authorize the Zotero Connector to access your Google account.

In Word, the plugin adds a Zotero tab. In Google Docs, the Connector adds a Zotero menu and a toolbar button for add citations.

Word Google Docs
Zotero tab in MS Word

Zotero menu and icon in Google Docs

They look different, but both offer access to the main features you will use:

  • Add/Edit Citation
  • Add/Edit Bibliography
  • Document Preferences
  • Refresh
  • Unlink Citations

Zotero Document Preferences

When starting a new document, the Document Preferences might be the first Zotero feature you will use.

Citation Styles

Zotero Document Preferences windowThe most important preference is the citation style! Zotero comes with many popular citation styles already installed. Thousands more styles are available through the Zotero Style Repository, and can be added with a few clicks.

Styles provided by the Fresno State Library

The library can attempt to create citation styles for Zotero if a suitable style is not available. Be sure to check your results with these, they may not support all item types.

Journal Abbreviations

For citation styles that use abbreviated journal titles, Zotero can abbreviate them automatically in Index Medicus/MEDLINE format. If the option for automatic abbreviations is not set, Zotero will use the "Journal Abbr." information entered with each item in your library


Add/Edit Citation or Bibliography

Zotero citation dialogAdd/Edit Citation

Choosing "Add/Edit Citation' will bring up a dialog box which you can use to choose an item from your library to cite. Sometimes this window pops up behind your document, so if it seems like nothing's happening, try minimizing your document or cycling through your open windows to find it.

Type an author name or other keywords to search for items from your library, then choose the one you wish to cite. You can add more than one item in the dialog to cite multiple items.

Zotero advanced citation featuresClick on an item in the citation dialog to customize it. You can add page numbers if required by your citation style, suppress the author name (if it appears earlier in the sentence, for example), or add prefix or suffix text such as "c.f." or "see also."

Add/Edit Bibliography

Choosing "Add/Edit Bibliography" does just what it says--it creates a bibliography at the cursor location that includes all the items cited in the document. You can choose it again to edit the bibliography, either to add sources that aren't cited, or to remove items (such as personal communications) that are cited but shouldn't appear in the reference list.

Refresh and Unlink Citations


"Refresh" updates all the citations and bibliographies in your document with the current information in your Zotero library. If you find errors or omissions in your item data while you are writing, correct the data in your library, then choose Refresh to update your document. There is a setting in the Document Preferences to refresh automatically, but this may slow down Zotero's performance.

Unlink Citations

"Unlink Citations" converts all the citations and bibliographies in your document to normal text, removing the connection to your Zotero library. Normally you would do this as a final step before submitting your document to someone else--make a copy of your document, unlink the citations in the copy, and submit the unlinked copy.

Create a Shareable Zotero File (.RDF)

In your Zotero Library:

1.  Select the folder or items you want to share
2.  Right click, and in the popup menu, select  Export Collection

Zotero file save step 1-2

3a.  Format = Zotero RDF (select another format if not sending the file to another Zotero user)
3b.  Optionally, click boxes to select Export Notes and/or Files (attached pdfs);

4. Click OK
Save Z file step3-4
5.  Enter a file name and export location, and Save
6.  You can attach and send the downloaded folder via email. The recipient can click on the .rdf file in it to open it in Zotero.
(If you didn't include Files in your export, there will only be an .rdf file, not a folder)