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Instructional Video

Zotero Series: Part 3 - Collecting & Organizing Sources

(MS Stream Video, New College Library)

This video provides instructions and a demonstration on how to create a collection in the Zotero application; add items to Zotero using the web-browser connectors; find available PDFs; add items manually; add items with identifiers; add items by dropping PDFs into Zotero; how to use Zotero tags; and how to use ZotFile to extract annotations.

Before you Start to Save Citations

Red warning icon.IMPORTANT:

Zotero Connector must be installed before you can save citation info directly from a web browser.

The Connector allows you to save bibliographic citations for a wide variety of content.

Red warning icon.IMPORTANT:

Zotero is not a perfect system and can make errors in the bibliographic information. Be sure to check the record in your Library for errors or missing information.

  • To check your records, click on the item in your Library to open the Info panel containing the bibliographic information (See the screenshot below).
  • To make edits, click on the field you need to change and type in the correct info. For more detailed instructions, consult the following pages: Editing Items and Editing Records

Zotero Info panel in Zotero desktop application. Info panel is highlighted in red.


Organizing Your Library with Collection Folders

Create collections to organize your references. Collections are like file folders on your computer, but a reference can be in more than one collection at a time. In other words, a book on the Civil War could be filed in your "Civil War" collection, your "Georgia History" collection and your "19th Century America" collection without having to make three copies of the reference.

Add Collection button, folder with green plus sign icon "Add Collection" Button 

In the Zotero Standalone Library, locate the "Add Collection" Button (a folder with green plus sign) in the top left corner, below Top Menu and click  to create a new "collection." A pop-up window will open and you can name the folder.

Screenshot of the desktop Zotero window with an arrow identifying the New Collection button, a yellow folder with a green plus sign in the bottom corner. The New Collection pop-up window contains a field to enter a title for the Collection.

Collecting References: Books and Articles

Zotero provides the ability to save references from most library catalogues and databases, and even some regular web pages, with one click. (Zotero publishes a list of compatible sites, and many sites not on this list also work).

If Zotero detects that you're looking at a book or article on a catalogue, database, or a site like, LibraryThing or the New York Times, you'll see a book or page icon appear in the address bar of your browser. Just click the icon and Zotero will automatically save the citation.

Zoteroweb connector Icon for Full Book is a book with a line across the top of the cover. Zotero Connector Icon for Full Book

Screenshot of the LibrarySearch book record with an arrow identifying the Zotero Full Book connector icon to the right of the address bar. The open Connector window is in the top right corner of the screen, below the Connector Icon.


Zotero web connector Icon for Journal Article is a white page with lines across it. Zotero Connector Icon for Journal Article 

Screenshot of a scholarly journal article in ProQuest. An arrow identifies the Zotero Journal Article connector icon to the right of the address bar. The open Connector window is in the top right corner of the screen, below the Connector Icon.


Zotero web connector Icon for List of Items on a page is a yellow file folder. Zotero Connector Icon for List of Items on a Page / Folder

If you're on a page of search results with many items, you'll see a folder icon instead. Click the folder icon to get a list of all the items on the page, and check off the ones you want to save.

Screenshot of the Zotero Item Selector window. The Item Selector window contains a selectable checklist of item titles.

Collectiong References: Book Section (Chapters, Essays)

Red warning icon.IMPORTANT:

When citing a single chapter or essay in an edited volume, you must change the record in your Library from a Full Book to a Book Section. This will ensure that the generated citation is for the specific chapter or essay, rather than the entire book or volume. Zotero will not do this automatically and requires that you follow the steps below.

Zotero Connector Icon for Book Section. Zotero Connector Icon for Book Section

Steps for changing a record from Full Book to Book Section:

To add the bibliographic information for a chapter or essay from an edited volume, follow these steps:

  1. Save the Full Book citation for the item using the Zotero Connector in your browser.
  2. Find the item in your Library, right click it and select the option 'Duplicate Item' - this will create a second item that can be changed into a Book Section item with a few edits.
  3. Select the duplicate item and make the following edits in the Zotero Info Panel (third panel on the right):


  1. Change the 'Item Type' to 'Book Section' and click 'OK' in the 'Change Item Type' pop-up message or this change will be lost!
  2. Add the title of the chapter/essay/section to the 'Title' field below 'Item Type'.

Item Type and Title fields outlined in red in the Zotero Info Panel.

Zotero Change Item Type Warning Pop-up window, OK highlighted.

  1. Using the drop-down menu and + sign located in the Author/Editor fields, add the Editor(s) of the Full Book, followed by the Author of the specific chapter/essay/section (use the + sign to add an additional fields as needed).

Editor field, drop-down Editor/Author list, and plus sign to add a field outlined in red, in Zotero Info Panel.

  1. Add the page number range of the chapter/section to the 'Pages' field.

Pages field outlined in red, in Zotero Info Panel.


Collecting References for Web Sites

You will occasionally encounter web pages from which Zotero can't automatically capture a citation. When that happens, you will need to add them manually.

When using the Zotero connector to save web pages, it is possible that not all the bibliographic information will be saved to the item record in your Library. Zotero can only pull in the information that is embedded in the webpage and sometimes the key information can be missing or poorly formatted.  This information will be used to create citations, so it is your responsibility to manually check the fields Zotero captured for the item and update the information to accurately reflect the source.  

You can manually edit the bibliographic information fields in the panel on the far right of the Zotero Standalone application, clicking on the item you want to edit in your library will open this panel. More information can be found on the Zotero Website:  


Zotero web connector Icon for Web Page is a blue page with a darker blue line at the bottom. Zotero Connector Icon for Web Page  

Screenshot of a web page with an arrow pointing at the Zotero Web Page connector icon to the right of the address bar. Connector pop-out window opens in the top right corner of the screen, below the Connector Icon.

Zotero Icon for Snapshot - camera and webpage Zotero Snapshot of Website  

Adding a website to Zotero will also attach a snapshot of the webpage to the citation record. Taking a snapshot saves a copy of the page to your computer. It includes the text, images and links displayed on the website so if the page is removed later, or if you're offline, you'll still be able to view your copy. The links will also work if they are still active. 


Use PDFs to add a Citation

It's easy to add PDFs to your Zotero library and automatically import their citation info.

  1. Drag your PDF files into the Zotero centre pane.
    • A pop-up may appear the first time requesting you to enable PDF indexing under the Search tab in Zotero's preferences. Zotero will download and install a small plugin.
  2. When you drag in a PDF, Zotero might automatically reformat the entry and add citation record crafted with data pulled from Google Scholar.
    • Be sure to make sure all the fields are filled out (e.g., author, title, publishing details, URL). 
  3. If the pdf doesn't update automatically, right-click the PDF to view all available actions. 
  4. Choose "Retrieve Metadata for PDFs." 
  5. A pop-up window will open and Zotero will retrieve their citation data from Google Scholar and turn them into citeable record with PDF attachments. If it is successful, it will automatically show the record and if it's not, an error message will be displayed. 
  6. Click Close button. 

If Zotero can't find a match on Google Scholar, don't worry -- you can still save the citation from another catalog or article database, then drag the PDF over top of the citation to attach it to the record. 

For full details, take a look at Zotero's instructions for retrieving PDF metadata

Gif image of Zotero showing the steps described above for retrieving PDF metadata


Adding items by ISBN

Have the book in front of you and want to add it to your Zotero library without having to search for a citation?

If you have a book's ISBN, an online article's DOI or PMID number, just click the magic wand button: "Add item by identifier." Type in the book or article's number, and Zotero will automatically download its information and save it to your library.

Screenshot of desktop Zotero window with an arrow identifying the magic wand icon in the tool bar. A search bar appears below the selected magic wand icon.