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A guide to using Zotero, a free tool for collecting information about your research sources and creating citations.

Create Citations Using the Zotero Plugin for Word or Google Docs

Zotero has a plugin that can be used with both Microsoft Word. Using the plugin creates a link between your document and your Zotero library when you create in-text citations, which offers the following time-saving benefits:

  • You can automatically generate a full bibliography based on the in-text citations.
  • You can change the citation style for an entire document, including both the in-text citations and the bibliography just by changing the settings in Zotero.
  • You can make updates to citation data in Zotero and have these updates appear automatically in your document.

In Text Citations

To add an in-text citation .

  1. Move your cursor to the place in the document where you want to add an in-text citation (parenthetical or a food/end note)
  2. In the Zotero menu in Word, click Add/Edit Citation
  3. Select your citation style (only for first citation added)
  4. When the red search box appear, search for an item in your Zotero library to add to the citation.
  5. CLick on the citation once it is in the red box to suprress the author, add page numbers, or other details to the citation.
  6. Repeat the process to add multiple items from Zotero to your citation.
Click Add/Edit citation to create a citation at the current point in your document. Search for the item in Zotero. After the item appears in the search box, click on it to add page numbers or other details. Repeat the process to add other Zotero items to Zotero.

Add a bilbiography

Once you have at least one in-text citation in your document, you can ask Zotero to create a bibliography based on those citations.

  1. Move your cursor to the place in the document where you want to add the ciation.
  2. Click Add/Edit Bibliography in the Zotero menu in Word.
  3. If you notice a mistake in the bibliography, update the item in your Zotero library and click Refresh in the Zotero menu. The bibliography entry will be udpated.
Place your cursor in the place where you want the bibliography to appear. Click Add/Edit Bibliography in the Zotero menu in Word.

Change document style

If you have added your citations to Word using Zotero, you can quickly change the citation style.

  1. Click Document Preferences in the Zotero menu in Word.
  2. Choose your preferred style and click OK.
Click Document Preferences and choose a new style to update the citaiton style for a document.

In Google Drive

There is also a plugin available for Google Drive. It uses the same menu format and commands as Microsoft Word. The browser plug in for Firefox and Chrome adds this functionality to Google Docs. According to Zotero's documentation a future update to the Safari plug in will make this work in that browser.

Screenshot of the Google Drive Zotero menu. Menu items include: Add/edit citation, Add/edit bibliography/Document preferences..., Refresh, Switch Word processors, Unlink citaitons.

Other Methods for Creating Citations with Zotero

If you are not using the Zotero plug in for Google Docs or Microsoft Word, you can still create citations using your Zotero document data. 

You can: 

  1. Select one or more citations from Zotero and drag these into your writing program to create a bibliography entry. Hold down shift while you drag to create an in-text citation. The style using this option will be the style you've selected as your default under Preferences > Export
  2. Select one or more citations in Zotero and right click to locate the option to Create Bibliography from Items. You'll be able to choose whether you want to create a bibliography or in-text citation. 
  3. Right click on a collection and choose to Create Bibliography from Collection. 

In these last two cases, you'll have the option to choose your citation style. Keep in mind that all of these options create static citations that are static: they cannot be updated the way you can with the Word or Google Docs plugin. 


Subjects: Interdisciplinary