Skip to Main Content Research Guides | Library | Amherst College

Zotero and Citation

Zotero Workshops

Attend a session to get you started with Zotero. Zotero is a free application that helps you collect, manage, and cite your sources. It's available in all computer labs on campus and you can download it on your personal computer for free. No registration needed, just show up!

Upcoming Workshops:

What is Zotero?

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free tool that collects, manages, and formats citations and bibliographies. You can attach PDFs, notes, and images to your references; arrange your sources into collections for different projects or classes; and tag them for easy searching or to jump-start chunks of your writing. Insert citations to Word or Google Docs as you write, and create a formatted bibliography or works cited page with one click!

Check out our Zotero "step by step" guide to try it out yourself, sign up for a library workshop to get started, or make an appointment with a research librarian for troubleshooting and pro tips—it's especially useful to get started with it early in a big project. Questions? Ask a librarian, at the reference desk or virtually!

The library provides unlimited storage to all Zotero users! We strongly recommend that everyone register for a Zotero account to have a backup and sync your Zotero library. Use your Amherst email address, and your unlimited storage will automatically be visible under Settings > Storage. If you registered with a different email address, you can add your address to your account when logged in at

Setting Up Zotero (step 1)

Download Zotero

Be sure to download the most current version of the application. This happens in two steps:

  1. Install Zotero, the program (the button on the left; it will recognize whether you need Mac or Windows) 
  2. Install the appropriate connector for your browser of choice (the button on the right; Firefox or Chrome—Safari became unstable with the last update)

Setting up Zotero Preferences

Data syncing

Data syncing merges library items, notes, links, tags, etc. between your local computer and the Zotero servers, allowing you to work with your data from any computer with Zotero installed. It also allows you to view your library online on

  1. Create a Zotero account
  2. Click on the Edit menu and select "Preferences"
  3. Open Zotero's Sync tab and enter your login information in the Data Syncing section. By default, Zotero will sync your data with the server whenever changes are made. To disable automatic syncing, uncheck the “Sync automatically” checkbox in this section.

Zotero Sync Preferences






Set up the location for storing data on your computer

It's important to know where the data is stored on your computer in case you ever need to reload your library from a backup. Zotero creates a default folder when it opens the first time. 

  1. Click on the Edit menu and select "Preferences"
  2. Click on the "Advanced" tab
  3. Click on the "Files and Folders" tab
  4. Under "Data Directory Location", select "Show Data Directory". If you want to change that, create a folder called Zotero in the new location, then use the Custom option to select the new folder. Note: Google Drive, Dropbox, and other cloud folders are not an option for your Zotero directory and will corrupt your data. Use a local folder instead, then sync with your Zotero account.)

Zotero Data Directory

Zotero Basics (step 2)

Adding items to your library with one click

When you look at a set of results or a record in a database, the Zotero connector recognizes books, articles, web pages, and other items. 

Managing Files and PDFs

Adding PDFs to items

If you have added an item to your library, and want to attach an existing PDF, click on the PDF and drag and drop until it highlights the item in your library. For additional information, see Zotero's documentation on adding files to items.

Note: The library has a Pay Per View (PPV) program for journals we used to get in big packages from Elsevier (ScienceDirect) and Wiley. Be sure to save your PDFs, which can be added to your Zotero library.   

Adding items from PDFs

You can  create an item in your library from an existing PDF. To do so:

  1. First, make sure Zotero's PDF indexing is up to date. To do so, click on the Edit menu and select "Preferences". On the "Search" tab, in the "PDF Indexing" section, click on the button that either says "Check for installer" or "Check for Update"

  2. Drag your existing PDFs into your Zotero library or use the “Store Copy of File” option from the add new item menu (green plus sign)

  3. Once they appear in the middle column, select the ones for which you wish to retrieve metadata

  4. Right click on them and select “Retrieve Metadata for PDF”

For additional information, see Zotero's documentation on automatically generating citation data

Zotero Extras (step 3)

Creating Bibliographies

Once you have items in your library or in a collection, you can choose any number of them and create a bibliography with one click.

Creating Groups

With Zotero groups, you collaborate remotely with project members, set up web-based bibliographies for classes, and more. Learn how to create, share and set access permission for your group.

  • Share your own work or sources you have discovered with others who are working in related areas

  • Collaborate with colleagues, publicly or privately, on ongoing research

  • Discover other people with similar interests and the sources they are citing

Using Zotero with Word and Google Docs

Microsoft Word plugin

Zotero Standalone automatically downloads the Word plugin that allows you to add citations and bibliographies. If you are using a Microsoft operating system, the Zotero toolbar will be found under the "Zotero" or "Add-Ins" tab by default. If you are using a Mac, the toolbar will be found under the Apple script icon or will appear as a small toolbar in the upper left corner of your screen.

Google Docs

You can now drag and drop items directly from your library into a text file, such as Google Docs, and it will insert them as a formatted citation.

Adding a citation:

Select the item in Zotero, hold down the shift key, and drag and drop in the Google Doc.

Adding a footnote:

  1. Click on "insert" in the Google Docs menu, and select "Footnote"

  2. Select the item in Zotero, hold down the shift key, and drag and drop to the footnote at the bottom of the page.

Adding a bibliography:

  • Select items in Zotero and drag and drop in the Google Doc.

  • To add multiple items, hold down the shift key as you select adjacent items, or the CTRL key to select non-adjacent titles.

  • Having selected multiple items, you can also right-click (or CTRL-click) to "Create bibliography from items". The bibliography can then be saved as an RTF or HTML file, copied to the clipboard to paste into a document, or printed.

  • To use a different citation style, change your settings in the export tab of Zotero preferences. 

For additional information, see Zotero's documentation on Zotero and Google Docs.

Zotero Troubleshooting

Issues with the proxy

Recently the library migrated to a new proxy, which may be causing some issues in Zotero. The issue may present like this yellow bar: 











To turn off the proxy redirection: 

Double click the Zotero Chrome Extension and select options











You will be brought to this page: 

Uncheck the proxy redirection button:

This will prevent the yellow bar from reappearing! If your Zotero issues continue, consult's documentation or a research librarian.