Using Zotero to Manage Citations

If you do any academic writing, you’ll come into contact with citations a lot. For some reason, many people overcomplicate using citations – manually entering them, and creating spreadsheets to tracks sources they have used. Zotero is a brilliant, free, citation manager, that will make adding citations to your work as simple as a few clicks.

Zotero is a free program – free to download, and use. You can get it for Windows, MacOS and Linux, and a Chrome plugin that makes it very easy to add research. In this post, I’ll go over using Zotero, and how I use it on my work.

Firstly, once you install Zotero and log in with your account, you’ll find that you can create various folders – great for splitting research up into topics. This is very useful as it lets you have a clearer view of your research, as well as making it easier to generate a bibliography to include at the end (I will go over this later).

The UI of Zotero, with a collection selected.

Adding information to Zotero is easy. There are several ways. You can manually add information into Zotero by clicking the plus icon, the format of what you enter, and then filling in the entries. Or, a much easier way, is to use the Chrome extension. This is free on the Chrome store, and lets you add filled in information with a single click. Simply go to whatever article, or book you want to cite, and then click on the icon. Even if it’s a Amazon page, or a Google Book, Zotero will detect this and fill in the relevant information.

You can also select what collection to save your citation to.

Adding citations from Zotero to your document is also very easy. I’ll go over this in Word, which is the program I and many other people use to write essays. On launching a new document, and clicking on adding a citation (in the Zotero tab), you’ll be prompted to fill in some information about your document. Most of the time, this is simply selecting the citation style you want. In this example, we’ll be using the MHRA citation style. You can also choose whether to have citations automatically update when you change information in Zotero (you can manually update them). You may be wondering if Zotero has your style of citation – it almost certainly does.

Now that you’ve set up your document preferences, you’ll be able to add citations to your document. You can either do this by setting a keyboard shortcut, which is what I do, or you can go to the Zotero tab. When inserting a citation, simply start typing the title of the document and Zotero will bring it up for you. You can then click on what you want to cite, and put in pages numbers and some more options.

Once you have written your document, you’ll most likely want to have a bibliography for it. This is where collections come in handy. Simply right click on a collection, and choose ‘Create a bibliography from this collection’. You can choose what format you want it to be in, and the output mode and method. I usually copy it to clipboard, and then paste it in at the end of my document.

Zotero makes adding citations easy. it had many advanced features, such as tagging, PDF notes, sorting, and more, but I’ve gone over the basics which I use the most in this review. If you are struggling with citations, Zotero is a brilliant solution. It makes it easy to add and edit citations, as well as keeping track and generating bibliographies. Plus, it’s completely free.

You can check out Zotero here.