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Zotero: Collect

An introduction to the free, online bibliographic management tool Zotero.

Getting Stuff into Zotero

Importing Records

Another option for adding a lot of items to Zotero at once is to import references saved in a .ris file. RIS is a standard file format for structured citation data; Zotero reads the file and converts it into citations.

  • Most academic databases have the option to export one or more records in various file formats. RIS should be one of the options.
  • If you're switching from another citation software to Zotero, you probably have the option to export your entire library as a .ris file.

To import RIS files:

  1. Open Zotero and click on the Actions button ().
  2. Click on Import and locate the RIS file.
  3. The records in the file will appear as Zotero items.

Adding References Manually

This is the most labor-intensive way to enter references into Zotero, but sometimes it's the only option. Especially if there is no readily available record for your item online.

  1. Open Zotero and click on the Add Item button ()
  2. Select the appropriate item type.
  3. A blank record will appear with the appropriate fields for that reference type.
  4. Enter as much information as you have about the item.

Using the Web Translator

If you're using Zotero Standalone, you need to install the browser plug-in for your browser of choice.

The Zotero web translator lets you harvest citation information (metadata) from databases and websites with one click. Simply navigate to the item and click the Add to Zotero button ()  to harvest the record.

Keep in mind:

  • Your citation data will only be as good as the data in the record. You can edit an entry to fix bad data or add missing information. Do this now... thank yourself later.
  • The icon will change as Zotero identifies a different kind of record (article vs. book vs. website or blog).
  • When you harvest website data, you have the archiving of saving a "snapshot" of the page. You'll be able to reference the page as it was, even if it changes over time.
  • If you're on a page with metadata for multiple items (for example, the results of a database search), Zotero will prompt you to select the items you'd like to collect.
  • Where available, Zotero will try to harvest the full-text of an article automatically. You can manually associate related files by clicking on the Add Attachment button (). 

Adding Items by Identifier

If you know the standard identifier for the item you're working with (DOI, PubMed ID, or ISBN), Zotero can harvest other relevant bibliographic information using that identifer.

  • Open Zotero and click on the Add Item(s) by Identifier button ()
  • Enter the identifier for your item.
  • Correct any mistakes or add missing information.

Extracting Metadata from PDFs

If you've already got a lot of sources saved on your computer, it can be a pain to locate online records to harvest citation information for Zotero. Luckily, Zotero can automatically extract metadata from many* PDF files.

  • Simply drag the PDF from your computer into your Zotero library.
  • Right click on the file and select "Extract Metadata from PDF."
  • If this is your first time doing this, you will be prompted to install a necessary plug-in. This should happen automatically.

*For this to work, the PDF quality must be good enough for Zotero to extract identifying text information and a matching record for the article must exist in Google Scholar. Zotero harvests Google Scholar metadata to create the item record.