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Zotero is a free tool that helps you collect, organize, cite, and share research sources.
This page provides information on how to download, install, and use the basic functions of this software. There is extensive online documentation and an excellent Quick Start Guide if you’d like to dig deeper and explore options for customizing your Zotero library.
Citation or reference managers can do the following:
Zotero is open source, meaning it was created by a community of researchers and developers, is available for free, and the code is available for anyone to inspect. Many libraries, including the Brown University Library, support this tool because it is flexible and easy to use, and you will be able to take it with you when you leave Brown.
We also support EndNote, a subscription citation manager used primarily in the sciences.
To use our recommended setup, follow these four steps:
This site has download options for both the software and browser connector.
You set your own username and password. You may want to use your personal email rather than your Brown email account, so you can easily take your references with you after Brown.
Sign in to Zotero so you can sync your references between your computer and the Zotero cloud. This allows you to load your library from any computer or browser.
Zotero offers 300 MB of free storage. If you reach this limit, you can:
You don't need to worry about file storage when you are first trying out Zotero.
There are three main sections of the Zotero window.
There are four basic ways to add references to your Zotero library.
You can manually type in bibliographic information for each item you want to add to your library. Select the type of source, then enter information onto the form.
You can change the item type and item details at any time. For example, a book will have different fields available to you than a film.
When you start writing, you may notice that a citation doesn't look right. Check the item details to address the errors you see.
You can upload a list of references that you have or that you exported from a research database. The list needs to be in a format that Zotero recognizes, such as RIS, Zotero RDF, or BibTex.
You can drag and drop files into your Zotero library, and it will create a record for you. For newer PDFs, Zotero can even retrieve and auto-fill some of the metadata. If Zotero can't determine the metadata, you can then update or enter the information manually.
The Zotero Connector is a plugin that automatically captures citation information from your browser and saves it to your Zotero library.
This is the easiest way to add references to your Zotero library while you are actively searching or researching.
You can save a single reference, like a journal article or webpage, or multiple items at a time if the connector recognizes multiple items on the page, like Amazon search results or a list of articles from a search on Google Scholar.
Note: The connector icon will change depending on what type of document Zotero thinks you are looking at.
Here are some examples of what to look for:
For a single reference, like an article or book, you will see a note that the connector is saving the reference to your library.
If there are multiple items recognized on the page, you will see a pop-up where you can select which references to save.
More options for saving references to your library are outlined in the Zotero documentation.
Zotero offers multiple options to organize references. You can mix and match these features to find an organization system that works for you — and stick to it!
Every reference that you add to your library will appear under the "My Library" tree. It's up to you to organize the references into collections and subcollections.
Some people use collections to organize their collection by topic, while other people find it useful to organize collections by paper or assignment. If you delete an item from a collection, it will still be saved in your library, so you can add it to a different collection in the future.
Zotero lets you share references using a feature called "Groups." Groups are a good way to share references with a class, work closely with research collaborators, and keep track of conversations happening in your field.
Groups are separate from your personal library and are created online, rather than in the software you downloaded to your computer. You will be able to see references in a Group locally, but permissions are set online, in the Group settings. You can drag and drop items from your library to a Group and it will make a copy of the item.
Refer to the full documentation for details on permissions and adding members to a Group.
The "Item Details" pane has a tab to add notes. You can attach multiple notes to an item.
It's important to know that the search bar does not search your notes.
The first line of your note will appear in the Item Details pane for easy browsing.
Unlike notes, you can search your Zotero library for tags.
You can manually add or delete tags from the "Item Details" pane. You may notice that some references have tags that you didn't input. When you import your references from a research database or high-quality PDF, Zotero will import metadata, like tags, too.
There are a few options to know about when you are ready to start writing. There are quick options for generating a bibliography, but the full word processor integration is the most powerful and will save you time and reduce the stress that comes with formatting and keeping track of citations, footnotes, and references in your document.
Zotero has two options for automatically generating a simple bibliography: "Quick Copy" and "Right-Click to Create." Details are available directly from Zotero:
Zotero officially supports Word, Google Docs, and LibreOffice.
There are third-party integrations available for LaTex and other text editors, statistical software, and web development tools.
If you are looking for a way to instantly generate a bibliography, but are not interested in building a shared library or reusing sources across different projects, ZoteroBib is a great option.
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