Zotero is a free online referencing tool. It is available as a website resource, browser plug-in as well as a desktop app. Zotero allows you to store your references and your documents for both versions of the referencing tool. If you are writing your paper with colleagues, you can rest easy as the referencing tool allows you to share your sources with your collaborators. It has cloud connectivity that allows accessibility from different devices.
You may also add Zotero as a plug-in referencing tool on Microsoft Word. It works kind of like Grammarly where you can add citations and bibliographies into the Word document as you write your paper. It has the capacity to do the same with Google Docs and Open Office. The referencing tool works by importing bibliographical information from sites and databases that you have visited in the course of your research. It then stores this information for you to use in citation and referencing. Any downloadable docs are automatically uploaded.
There are thousands of citation styles available on Zotero, unlike Microsoft Word which only has a few. Another good thing is that these referencing styles are all up to date and do not require manual editing to adjust for differences in versions.
Step 1: Get Zotero
- Visit the Zotero website and click on the ‘download’ button. The button is very visible smack right in the middle of the landing page.
- The download page will have options to get the desktop app as well as the browser plug-in. Make sure to download both.
- You may go ahead and download the iOS app if you would like to work from your phone on the go.
- It is advisable to read the guide before proceeding just to familiarize yourself with the referencing tool and its capabilities. Zotero is more of a referencing manager, it would be prudent to learn about its full functionality.
- Create a Zotero account by following the prompts so that you are able to save your sources to your Zotero cloud as well as share them with collaborators. On the Zotero homepage, click on ‘Register’ and then go from there.
Step 2: Enter your sources into the referencing tool
- Automatically saving a source
- Open the browser in which you installed the Zotero plug-in as well as the desktop app.
- Go to the webpage of your source which can be anything from a podcast to a journal article or even a book
- Click on the Zotero icon next to the address bar – this will save the bibliographical information of your source
- Check your Zotero library to confirm that the source has been saved. Please note that you may have to edit some information.
- Saving a source manually
- This option is best if your source does not have metadata that the referencing tool can detect. Therefore, the first step would be to open your library on the Zotero referencing tool
- Next find the ‘New Item’ icon
- Select the type of source. Should you fail to find the type of source, simply click on more and additional types will be revealed.
- Enter the bibliographical information like the name of the author and date of publication
- Make sure to sync by clicking on the ‘Sync’ icon. This creates an entry of the same on your online library and makes it shareable as well as accessible from different devices.
Step 3: Citing and Referencing with Zotero Referencing Tool
- Citing and Referencing on Microsoft Word
- Open your Word document
- Click on the Zotero icon on the menu bar
- Ensure the cursor is placed where the citation should go
- Click on ‘Add/Edit Citation’
- Start searching for the source by typing its particulars like the title or names of the authors. The referencing tool will offer suggestions as you type. You may add multiple citations by simply searching and clicking on whichever other sources you would like to cite.
- Press ‘enter’ on your keyboard
- To add the reference list, click on ‘Add/Edit Bibliography’ on the menu bar after you have moved the cursor to a new page. The referencing tool will add any and all sources cited in the document to the reference list
- Citing and Referencing on Google Docs
Using the Zotero referencing tool on Google Docs is the same as on Microsoft Word. Simply click on the Zotero icon on the menu bar and follow the prompts as explained above.
This is a referencing tool that simply generates the reference for any source you need and then leaves you to copy and paste it onto your reference list. To create a reference simply paste the link of your source in the bar provided then copy the reference generated. You may use anything from the web page link to the DOI, PMID, and ISBN. Unlike the plug-in and desktop app, you are not required to download anything but then you do not get to enjoy the full functionality of Zotero as a referencing tool.