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This guide offers instruction and information about this popular open source citation manager available to the Brown community.

Download and Setup

To use our recommended setup, follow these four steps:

  1. Install Zotero software on your computer
  2. Install a browser plugin
  3. Create an account
  4. Sync your account to the software on your computer

After you install and sync your account, you can read on to learn about file storage and the basic components of the Zotero window.


This site has download options for both the software and browser connector.

  • Software: Download options are available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
  • Connector: Options for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge.

Create an Account

You set your own username and password. You may want to use your personal email rather than your Brown email account as a primary account, so you can easily take your references with you after Brown. You can add a secondary email using your account to access unlimited file storage while you are at Brown.


When using the desktop version of Zotero, you will need to sign in to connect to the account you created online. This will allow you to sync your references between your computer and the Zotero cloud.

Zotero sync options highlighted with black boxes


There are three main sections of the Zotero window.

  1. Collections: Folders to organize your references
  2. Items: A list of all items in your library or the selected collection
  3. Item Details: Contains four tabs:
    1. Item information, citation metadata
    2. Notes
    3. Tags
    4. Related documents

3 black boxes around each zotero pane

Adding & Collecting References

There are four basic ways to add references to your Zotero library.

  1. Manual Entry
  2. Upload/Import a list
  3. Drag and Drop Documents
  4. Add from the Browser with Zotero Connector

Manual Entry

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.

In Zotero:

  • Use "Add New" button
  • Select item type
  • Manually type in the citation information in the "Item Details" pane, which is the panel all the way to the right on the screenanimation of clicking add button and selecting item type.

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.

In Zotero:

  • File → Import
  • Select file Type
  • Select file from your directoryanimation of pubmed citation export, importing into zotero

Drag and Drop Documents

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.

  • Position your file directory so you can see your files and Zotero at the same time
  • Select the files to bring in
  • Drag and drop the files into the Zotero item list pane, in the middle of your screenanimation of drag and drop action from directory to zotero item pane

Zotero Connector

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:

  • article icon for zoteroArticle
  • Book icon for ZoteroBook
  • folder icon for ZoteroFolder

For a single reference, like an article or book, you will see a note that the connector is saving the reference to your library.

connector save screen

If there are multiple items recognized on the page, you will see a pop-up where you can select which references to save.

selection screen for multiple zotero references

More options for saving references to your library are outlined in the Zotero documentation.