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How to Use Zotero

A guide to using the Zotero citation management tool

Importing PDF's

Drag and Drop PDF's from your computer or drive into Zotero

You may already have a folder of PDF copies of articles and other resources. Importing your existing PDF files is an easy way to get started with Zotero.

If the original PDF files were crated to include the article metadata (citation element fields like title, author, etc.) in the machine-readable information (that you cannot see), Zotero may be able to populate the title, author, etc. data fields.

To directly import a PDF, open Zotero and your File Explorer. Drag and drop the PDF files directly into the Zotero My Library folder.

Create Zotero Citations from PDFs

If you have pulled in a PDF and Zotero was not able to populate the citation element fields, you can try the following:

  • Add files: Import an individual PDF or drag and drop the file into Zotero
  • Right-click on the PDF you just imported, then select "Retrieve Metadata for PDF"
  • If Zotero is able to locate the citation elements, they will be imported.


Importing an existing reference list from a Word, Google, or other word processed document.

You may already have papers or projects that have formatted reference lists that you would like to import into Zotero. Use the following steps to try to import these references.

1. Make sure the references are consistently formatted in a citation style (like APA or MLA) and only have a hard paragraph return at the end of the citation.

2. Go to and copy/paste the reference list.

3. Review the Edit section to make sure the citation elements have been saved properly.

4. Select BibTex under SAVE.

A file called AnyStyle will be downloaded on your computer. Now you will need to upload that file to Zotero.

1, Go to the Zotero program on your desktop.

2. Select File-->Import-->A file (BibTeX, RIS, Zotero RDF, etc.) and select NEXT

3. Select the anystyle file and select OPEN

The citation elements will be imported. Please review the citations against your original list, you may need to make edits or add information.

You can easily search for the PDFs directly from the Zotero desktop program using one of the following:

  1. Find Available PDF (select the citation. use the right mouse button on the citation. Select Find Available PDF from the drop-down menu)
  2. Use the Green Arrow (locate) to find the article. Download and attach to the citation.

IMPORTANT: You need to have the Resolver set to use this function. Go to Edit-->Preferences

In the General tab, copy and paste the following link into the Resolver:box. This will pass article links through the Wayne State University library system proxy so you can access full-text articles when available.

Importing References into Zotero

Capturing References using the Zotero Connector

The Zotero Connector will try to detect the type of item (or items) in your browser window, and the icon displayed in your browser will change accordingly (see below). If you have the Zotero app open, the Zotero Connector will import references to the active collection or folder, i.e., the collection/folder which is highlighted in the left-hand column of the app.

If you are looking at the record for a book, Zotero’s book icon will appear in the browser toolbar. Selecting the book icon will save all of the citation information about that book into your Zotero citation library:

Screenshot an item in the library catalog with the Zotero book icon highlighted

If you are looking at a group of items (for example, a list of search results from Google Scholar or a Library Database), a folder icon will appear in the toolbar.

Screenshot of a Google Scholar search with the Zotero folder icon highlighted

Clicking on the folder will produce a list of items with check boxes next to them; choose the ones you want to save and Zotero will do the rest:

Checkboxes that appear when the Zotero folder icon is clicked

When you have an article open in your browser the article icon, which looks like a sheet of paper, will appear in the toolbar. Selecting the article icon will save the article citation and a PDF (if one is available) to your Zotero citation library:

Screenshot of an article with the article icon highlighted

When Zotero notices you aren't on a type of source it recognizes, the Zotero Connector will display a website icon, which is visually similar to the article icon (the main difference being a grey box toward the bottom of the website icon). Zotero will add a citation for that webpage to your library. By default, Zotero will also take a snapshot of the website.

Editing Citations

Often, the imported citation will need to be edited. Some databases may use author initials instead of full names or may use CAPITAL LETTERS when you want sentence style.

Clicking on the item that needs revision should open up an interface that allows you to edit the citation. You can also enter additional information that might have been missed.

QUICK CHANGE TO SENTENCE CASE - APA style using Sentence Case for the title. Zotero has a tool to quickly switch a Title to Sentence Case. Hover your mouse over the title information, then click your Right mouse button. Select Sentence Case to properly format the title for APA citations.

A blank form can also be used to enter a citation manually.