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

Organize Your References

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.

black box around collection and subcollection


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.

note highlighted in Zotero


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.

Group Libraries and Sharing

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.