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How to Use Zotero for Citation Management: Organizing Citations

A guide to downloading, installing, and utilizing Zotero, a free citation management tool with integrated browser and word processor features.

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Yes, technology is truly awesome. No, it isn't perfect. If you aren't sure what citation rules are acceptable for your project, check with your professor. Make sure you are using a reliable citation manual or a reliable web source for citation information based on current standards, such as the Purdue OWL Website

Using Folders

With the Zotero library open at the bottom of the Firefox browser, the folder structure for your citations should be visible via a window on the left. Right-click to rename folders. Move folders around. Drag and drop articles from the My Library folder into subfolders instantly. Create a folder for each of your projects in order to keep track of what goes where.

Regardless of how you organize citations and attached PDF's, the My Library folder will always contain everything. This means that when you misplace a citation, you can search My Library and know that you are searching your entire collection.

Using Tags

Instead of using folders, many users prefer to create and assign tags. Tags allow individual citations to overlap over several topics. They also allow you to quickly recall the topics covered in a source.

You can access tags via the navigation window on the left or via the item details menu on the right.

You might add the tag "food politics" to 12 articles, then apply tags representing branches of that topic to each of those articles. When you search for the "food politics" tag, your results will show all the citations to which you have applied that tag.

Using Notes

Notes are useful for the research process, particularly when it comes to long-term or collaborative projects. Access the notes option via the item details window on the right of the Zotero menu.

Using Attachments

Citations with attached documents should have a blue dot that appears under the attachments column. This means that there is a document of some kind associated with this record, usually a PDF of the full-text article. Right-clicking on a citation in the Zotero menu allows the user to attach a file manually. 

Note: When you capture a citation from the web, Zotero stores the URL automatically, so you can always go back to what you were reading at the time!

Screenshots: Organizing Citations in Zotero

Your Librarian

Beth Carpenter's picture
Beth Carpenter
Transylvania University Library
300 N. Broadway
Lexington, KY 40508-1797