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Adding Items to your Zotero Library

This page describes the various ways by which you can store bibliographic information (e.g., of books, journal articles, and web pages) as items in Zotero. To learn more about storing files (such as PDFs or images), and attaching files to items, see the files page.

Web Translators

This feature is available if you have installed Zotero Connectors for Firefox, Chrome, or Safari, in addition to the Zotero desktop client app. See Downlods and Installation.

If you have the Zotero Connector extension installed in your browser, Zotero will automatically find bibliographic information on the web pages you visit. For example, if you are looking at the record for a journal article on a publisher's web site, Zotero's save button will change to the icon of a Journal Article (circled in red):

Zotero's save button is the most convenient and reliable way to add items with high-quality bibliographic metadata to your Zotero library.


When you install the Zotero Connector extension in your browser, the Zotero save button will appear in the toolbar on the right, next to your other toolbar buttons:

Firefox:

Safari:


Many users find it more convenient and easier to find the Zotero save button as they browse if they move it next to the address bar using the browser's “Customize Toolbar” command:


When you click this Zotero save button, Zotero will save all of the available bibliographic information about that item to your library. For example, if you click on the journal article icon below, Zotero will create a new “Journal Article” item with the item's bibliographic information (authors, title, date, journal title, etc.). The icon on the Zotero save button will change based on the type of item on the page. For example, on a library catalog page for a book, the Zotero save button will show a Book icon.

Journal Article:

Book:


On some web pages that list information about multiple items (e.g., a list of Google Scholar search results), Zotero will show a folder icon. Clicking this folder icon will open a window in which you can select the items that you want to save to your library:


Some webpages don't provide any metadata that Zotero can recognize. On these pages, the Zotero save button will show a gray webpage icon. If you click the Zotero save button on these pages, Zotero will import the page as a “Web Page” item. See Saving Webpages below.

Firefox:

Safari:


If you are viewing a PDF file in your browser, the Zotero save button will show a PDF icon. Clicking the button in this case will import the PDF file alone into your library. To import the PDF with bibliographic metadata, import the item from the item details or abstract page, if available.

Saving to a Specific Collection or Library

To save imported items to a specific collection or library, select that collection or library in the left pane of the Zotero app (not in your browser) before clicking the Zoter save button. An option to select collections directly from the Zotero save button will be added in a future version.

Metadata Quality and Choosing a Translator

The quality of the data Zotero imports is determined by the information supplied on the web page. Some websites provide very high quality data using a standard way to provide Zotero with data (via embedded metadata). Other websites provide only limited metadata (e.g,. only the title of a blog post) or no metadata at all. For many sites, Zotero has website-specific translators to obtain the best quality metadata. Zotero works with most library catalogs, several popular websites such as Amazon.com and NYTimes.com, and many (gated) databases and websites of scientific publishers (for more information, see our compatible websites list). By default, translator updates are automatically installed, independent of Zotero updates. Metadata for the same item may vary in quality across sites providing it. For example, importing an item from the publisher website will generally yield much better data than importing from Google Scholar.

Zotero will generally choose the best translator available for each site automatically. You can choose an alternative translator by right-clicking on the Zotero save button (click-and-hold in Safari) and choosing one of the supplied options. If a website isn't importing properly, please report it on the Zotero forums and provide the web page URL.

Add Item by Identifier

You can quickly add items to your library if you already know their ISBN, Digital Object Identifier (DOI), or PubMed ID. To add an item via one of these identifiers, click the “Add Item by Identifier” button () at the top of the center column of the Zotero pane, type or paste in the identifier, and press Enter/Return. To enter multiple identifiers at one time, type the first identifier, then press Shift+Enter/Return, then type the remaining identifiers (one on each line). Once you've typed all the identifiers, press Shift+Enter/Return to import all the items at once. You can also paste a list of multiple identifiers (each on a separate line), then press Shift+Enter/Return to finish.

Zotero uses the following databases for looking up item metadata: Library of Congress and WorldCat for ISBNs, CrossRef for DOIs, and NCBI PubMed for PubMed IDs.

Saving Webpages

With Zotero, you can create an item from any webpage by clicking the save button in the browser toolbar. If the page isn't recognized by a translator, you'll see the gray webpage icon. If the page does have a recognized translator, you can force Zotero to save a Web Page item instead by right-clicking (click-and-hold in Safari) on the Zotero save button and choosing “Save to Zotero (Web Page with/without Snapshot)”

Firefox:

Safari:

If “Automatically take snapshots when creating items from web pages” is enabled in the General tab of the Zotero preferences, a copy (or snapshot) of the webpage will be saved to your computer and added as a child item. You can also save a snapshot with this setting disabled by right-clicking (click-and-hold in Safari) on the Zotero save button and choosing the relvant option. To view the saved copy, double-click the item or the snapshot in Zotero.

Double-clicking a Web Page item without a snapshot in your library will take you to the original webpage. Double-clicking a Web Page item with a snapshot will display the snapshot instead. You can also visit the original webpage by clicking the ”URL:” label to the left of the URL field in Zotero's right-hand pane.

Annotations

Older versions of Zotero supported annotating webpages and you may still see references to that in a forum thread. Unfortunately, webpage annotations are not currently supported.

Importing from Other Tools

You might want to migrate to Zotero but already have an extensive library stored in other reference management software (e.g., Endnote, Reference Manager, Citavi, RefWorks, Mendeley, Papers). To import such libraries into Zotero, start by exporting the bibliographic data from your other software program. Then, in Zotero, choose the “Import…” option from the File menu. Browse to your exported file, select it, and click the “Open” button. This should import the exported items into your Zotero library in a date-stamped collection.

For detailed instructions on how to make the switch from Endnote to Zotero, see Importing Records From EndNote.

For detailed instructions on how to make the switch from Citavi to Zotero, see Importing Records From Citavi.

For detailed instructions on how to make the switch from Mendeley to Zotero, see Importing Records From Mendeley. Mendeley does not export all item data using standard methods; the linked page provides tools and detailed instructions for moving a Mendeley database to Zotero.

Importing from other tools follows similar steps, so long as they can export a standardized format.

Zotero can import amongst others the following bibliographic file formats:

  • Zotero RDF
  • CSL JSON
  • MODS (Metadata Object Description Schema)
  • BibTeX
  • RIS
  • Refer/BibIX
  • Unqualified Dublin Core RDF
  • Endnote XML
  • XML ContextObject
  • Web of Science Tagged
  • MEDLINE/nbib

Note that import/export is generally not recommended for transferring entire Zotero libraries between different computers or Zotero installations. Import/export usually does not give you an exact copy of your Zotero library, and, if you use Zotero's word processor plugins, any links to Zotero items from existing word processor documents will be lost after recreating a Zotero library via export/import. Instead, you can use Zotero's sync features or manually copy the Zotero data directory. See Transferring a Library for detailed instructions.

Bibliographic data stored directly in Word documents using Word's bibliography feature cannot be directly imported by Zotero or other reference management tools. However, it is possible to import Word bibliographies by first formatting them as BibTeX, then using Zotero to import the BibTeX data. See Citations inserted using Microsoft Word's built-in citation feature.

If you have Word documents with embedded Zotero or Mendeley citations, you can extract these and import them into your Zotero library using the Reference Extractor tool.

Large-Scale Imports from Databases

If you are importing a large of items from scholarly databases (e.g., if you are conducting a systematic review), databases such as Google Scholar, ProQuest, Web of Science, and others, may lock you out if you use the Zotero save button too frequently or with too many items at once. In such cases, it is better to export the items as a batch in one of the standardized formats listed above (e.g., BibTeX and RIS are common choices) and import this file into Zotero. Web of Science and ProQuest offer the ability to select multiple items from a search results list and export as a batch to various formats. In Google Scholar, you need to first save the items to your Google Scholar library (using the ☆ icon in the search results), then select and export them from the Google Scholar “My Library” page.

Adding PDFs and other Files

To include a PDF or any other file from your computer in Zotero, simply drag it to Zotero — you can drag to an existing item to attach the file or drag between items to store as an independent item.

You can also add add files as attachments to existing Zotero items by right-clicking on the Zotero item and choosing “Add Attachment” or clicking the paperclip icon in the Zotero toolbar. You can also add independent file items by clicking the green plus sign () in the Zotero toolbar and choosing “Store Copy of File…” or “Link to File…”.

For PDFs that you have added as independent items, you can try to automatically download bibliographic data from the internet by right-clicking them and selecting Retrieve Metadata for PDF. Note that this function will typically yield lower quality metadata than importing using a Web translator.

Manually Adding and Editing Items

Adding Items by Hand

To manually add an item to your Zotero library, click the green “New Item” () button at the top of the center pane, and select the desired item type from the drop-down menu (the top level of the menu shows recently created item types; the complete list of item types, minus Web Page, can be found under “More”). An empty item of the selected item type will now appear in the center column. You can then manually enter the item's bibliographic information via the right-hand pane.

Note: When you want to create an item for a web page, it is usually easiest to visit the page in your browser and then save it to Zotero (see Saving Webpages). Because of this, the Web Page item type is not included in the “New Item” menu. However, you can still create an empty Web Page item by creating an empty item of another type and switching the item type to Web Page in the right-hand pane of the Zotero window.

Editing Items

When you have selected an item in the center pane, you can view and edit its bibliographic information via the Info tab of the right-hand pane. Most fields can be clicked and edited. Changes are saved automatically as they are made. Some fields have special features, which are discussed below.

Names

Each item can have zero or more creators, of different types, such as authors, editors, etc. To change the creator type, click the creator field label (e.g., Author:). A creator can be deleted by clicking the minus button at the end of the creator field, and additional creator fields can be added by clicking the plus button at the end of the last creator field. Creators can be reordered by clicking a creator field label and selecting “Move Up” or “Move Down”.

Each name field can be toggled between single and two field mode by clicking the “Switch to single field” / “Switch to two fields” buttons at the end of the creator field. Single field mode should be used to institutions (e.g., when the author is “Company A”), while two field mode (last name, first name) should be used for personal names. If a person has only one name (e.g., “Socrates”), enter this as a Last Name in two field mode. You can switch the order of two field author names by right-clicking on the name and choosing “Swap First/Last Names”

To quickly enter additional creators, type Shift-Enter/Retun to move immediately to a new creator field.

Journal Abbreviations

Journal articles are often cited with the abbreviated journal title. Zotero stores the journal title and journal title abbreviation in separate fields (“Publication” and “Journal Abbr”, respectively). While some citation styles require different abbreviations, most of the variation is in whether or not the abbreviation contain periods (e.g., “PLoS Biol” or “PLoS Biol.”). Because removing periods is more accurate than adding them, we recommend that you store title abbreviations in your Zotero library with periods. Zotero can then reliably strip out the periods in rendered bibliographies when the chosen citation style calls for it.

Titles

In English, titles are typically either Title Cased or Sentence cased (for the distinction, see http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2012/03/title-case-and-sentence-case-capitalization-in-apa-style.html ). Because citation styles differ in their casing requirements, and because automatic conversion from Sentence case to Title Case is much more accurate than the other way around, we recommend that you always store titles in your Zotero library in sentence case. Zotero can then reliably convert titles to Title Case in rendered bibliographies when the chosen citation style calls for it.

To help with changing the case of titles, the title fields (e.g., “Title”, “Publication”, “Series Title”, “Short Title” for the “Journal Article” item type) can be right-clicked. This shows the “Transform Text” menu, with options to convert the title to either “Title Case” or “Sentence case”. Zotero does not recognize proper nouns, and transformed titles should always be checked for capitalization errors.

If you need APA-style Sentence case, with the first letter after a colon also capitalized, we still recommend storing the title in full sentence case (with that letter in lowercase unless a proper noun), installing the Propahi plugin, and using its Uppercase Subtitles feature.

Clicking the label of the URL (“URL:”) and DOI (“DOI:”) fields will open up the (DOI-resolved) URL in your web browser.

Extra

The Extra field can be used for storing custom item metadata or data that doesn't have a dedicated field in Zotero. If you need to cite an item using a field not supplied by Zotero, you can also store such data in Extra. To cite these fields, place the data at the top of the Extra labeled with its CSL (Citation Style Language) variable name. For example, to add a DOI to a Book Section item, add this to the top of Extra: DOI: 10.1234/567890

Verify and Edit Your Records

Zotero will accurately import the metadata on a Web page, but the supplied metadata may not be fully accurate

Zotero will accurately import metadata supplied by most bibliographic databases, library catalogs, publisher sites, and webpages. It will even make adjustments to the metadata to compensate for known quirks (author names in all upper case, etc.) in what the supplier provides. That said, sometimes the metadata that Zotero receives is incomplete or incorrect. For example, one major academic search site often provides the wrong serial name with otherwise correct metadata. Another scholarly research site's metadata can omit some of the authors' names or present them in the wrong order. Even major publishers sometimes provide individual authors' first and last names in the wrong order and inconstantly within the same journal volume and issue or even within the same article. Some publishers' metadata may omit important items (author names when there are many, journal ISSNs, DOIs, etc.)

Some metadata is provided with only author last names and one or two initials when the authors' full names are provided on the full text version of the article. For author names to be properly disambiguated in author-date styles, the author's name must be consistently and identically entered across all items they contributed to.

Publishers have different conventions for the casing of titles. No software can accurately and reliably convert title case to sentence case. If titles are entered in (or converted to) sentence case, Zotero can accurately convert them to title case if the style requires that format.

Zotero users should be aware of these issues and verify that the records in their library are accurate and in the correct format so that Zotero can produce well-formed citations in the text and the bibliography of your manuscript.