Zotero Essentials

Zotero is a free and open-source citation management software. The program is intuitive and conveniently integrates with your web browser to help you collect, manage, and cite sources for your research. This includes allowing you to easily save references from library catalogs, research databases, and websites.

Keeping track of your sources as you work through the research process can save you a lot of time later on. As graduate students, this will be especially helpful when conducting research for long papers that require the use of many sources, like literature reviews, capstone papers, dissertations, etc.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Install the Zotero software on your computer
  • Register for a free account – recommended if you work on multiple computers
  • Utilize basic features for adding, organizing, and sharing resources

Why Zotero?

  • it’s an open source software that is free to use and install
  • it’s easy to use
  • it resides in your web browser and “watches” the sites you visit to see if any of them contain citations to books, articles and other sources
  • you can save resources while you find them by pulling in relevant metadata
  • Zotero works on Mac, Windows, Linux, and even mobile devices
  • it comes with easy-to-use plugins for Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, and Google Docs which allow you to create dynamic in-text citations and references when writing papers using these tools

and it enables you to…

  • import, manage, and annotate citations from various sources
  • include PDFs and website snapshots so you can take your research with you
  • handle research and citation management in the same place
  • easily generate bibliographies in a wide range of styles
  • access your Zotero library from any computer with an internet connection through its useful syncing features
  • share libraries and create groups to collaborate with others

Here is a quick [1:44] introduction from McGill University:

Installation Overview

1. Install Desktop Version of Office 365 (Including Word) (if you don’t have it already)

Microsoft Office 365 is available to Fredonia students, faculty, and staff for free. To install the software, follow these steps:

  1. Visit Microsoft’s Office in Education page
  2. Enter your Fredonia Email
  3. Select if you are a student
  4. Enter your information in the form which includes a verification number to be sent to your Fredonia email
  5. Follow the on-screen prompts to finish registration and download the software.

After installing Office, check your computer’s applications list.  Do you see Microsoft Word?  Can you open a Word document?

If you are having trouble with installation, please contact the ITS Service Center at:

Phone: (716) 673-3407
Email: Tracker@fredonia.edu
Website: www.fredonia.edu/tracker

II. Close Microsoft Office

The Zotero application includes a Word extension. Before installing Zotero, close/quit Microsoft Word.

If you fail to close Word now, you may have to do extra steps later.

III. Download and Install Zotero

You may be viewing the Zotero “Download” page in the adjacent window.  If not, click here (https://www.zotero.org/download/) and pull the new tab onto your ‘working’ window.

Click on the “Download” button under the  “Zotero __ for Windows” or the “Zotero __ for macOS” heading.

IV: Locate and Open the Downloaded Files

You may have to locate your downloads folder and double click on the downloaded Zotero file to begin the installation process.

A series of other notifications asking permission to allow /run/etc will appear.  Give permission as needed to allow the process to continue.

V. Open Zotero

If Zotero doesn’t open automatically after it is installed, find and open the program.

On a Windows computer, you can typically click the “Window” button to reach the application list with “Zotero” near the bottom of the list.

Screenshot of "Window" button leading to list of applications containing Zotero

On a Mac, open a “Finder” window and navigate to the “Applications” list.  Zotero will be close to the bottom of a list that’s sorted by application name.

Screenshot of the "Applications" link in the navigation panel of a Mac "Finder" window.

VI. Install the Zotero Connector for Chrome, Firefox, or Safari

The next step in using Zotero is installing the connector that will connect Zotero to your internet browser. Connectors are available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Follow the steps below for the browser/s you use:

VII. Zotero Preferences

Open the Zotero stand-alone program. You should be able to find the program by either searching your computer for — Zotero — or by going to the “Applications” folder or “Programs” list.

Find the Zotero program’s “Preferences” option

  • Windows computer users — Use the “Edit” menu to find the “Preferences” option.
  • Mac Users — Use the “Zotero” menu to find the “Preferences” menu.

On the “General” page of the “Preferences” pop-up box, de-check several options to save storage space.  Specifically, de-check the “Automatically take snapshots” option.  This option eats up a lot of storage space, and the snapshots are not very useful.

A screenshot shows de-clicking of the "snapshots" option.

Click the “Sync” icon at the top of the “Zotero Preferences” box.

Click the “Create Account” link.  If the registration page doesn’t open automatically, use your working window to go to https://www.zotero.org/user/register/

A screenshot shows the create account link.
A screenshot of the registration page.
A screenshot shows the "Sync" tab in Zotero's "Preferences"

You have the option of syncing or not syncing full-text.  Your free online account can only hold 300 mb so you may want to turn off full-text syncing.    If you de-check “sync full-text content, you will still be able to store full-text articles in Zotero on the computer you’re using now. The full-text articles just will not move automatically to another computer.


A screenshot of the sync preferences page after syncing has been set up.
Return to Zotero’s Sync Preferences. If syncing isn’t automatically set up after you create your account, enter your Zotero username and password. If a “Set Up syncing” button (or similar option/button) is present, select/click it, and fill in the form that appears.
  • Make up a username and password for use in Zotero.  You can use your e-mail address as your username.  Don’t use your Fredonia e-Services password.
  • You can use any of your e-mail addresses.

You can specify your citation preferences by clicking the “Cite” icon at the top of the “Zotero Preferences” box.

  • When you reach the “Cite” options, click on the “Styles” button or tab.
  • The citation styles that are currently available in your account will appear in the “Style Manager” box.

image “Styles” “Preferences” page in Zotero.” width=”300″ height=”153″>


This section, “Installation Overview,” is an adaptation of Zotero Tutorial by Cindy Schmidt, and is used under a CC BY 4.0 license.

Getting Started with Zotero

This section is a sequence of tutorials covering the basic functions of Zotero to help get you started. All of these videos are from McGill Library and are licensed under a CC-BY-NC license. For a course designed to take you beyond the basics of using Zotero, see Mastering Zotero by Kris Joseph.



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Fredonia Graduate Studies Research Toolkit Copyright © 2022 by Christina Hilburger is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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