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Zotero at MIT: Zotero

What is Zotero?

Zotero is:

  • a research tool that helps users collect and organize sources.
  • a free, open-source program that can be downloaded as a browser extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari and as a standalone program that works with Windows, Mac, or Linux systems.
  • a desktop application that lives in your browser.
Zotero icon

For many major databases and websites, the program can tell when a list of books or articles is displayed by showing an icon in the address bar, so citation information can be saved with just a few clicks:


Zotero can help you:

  • Annotate and organize research results, including video.
  • Save information about a reference, including author, title, and other publication information.
  • Create libraries and save searches, and share collections with other people.
  • Attach files, links, notes, and PDFs to records.
  • Store a screenshot of a web page.
  • Export information as formatted citations in word processing programs (Word, Open Office, Google Docs).
  • Tag and sort records and perform advanced searches.
  • View records in personal collection when offline.
  • Cite records in any language.

Ups and downs of using Zotero

Some points to consider before you start using Zotero:


  • Great for importing records for non-traditional references, like wikis and websites.
  • Helps to organize web screenshots and PDFs. You can make PDFs searchable by choosing to index them in the preferences menu. 
  • Easily imports records from many of the resources you already use.
  • The program lives where you already do most of your research, in the browser.
  • Imports records from several major databases that won't work with EndNote & Mendeley, including Factiva, USPTO, Espacenet, & FreePatentsOnline.
  • It's user-friendly.
  • Easily retrieves PDF metadata, like title and author information.
  • Great for creating bibliographies in
  • Synchronizes collections among multiple computers & backs up data.
  • Offers option to create user profiles and groups, so you can share your collection.
  • Detects proxy servers automatically, making off-campus access to library databases easier.


  • Need to pay for extra storage space.

Download Zotero

To use Zotero with a word processing program, there are 3 pieces of software to install:

  1. Open or download Firefox.
  2. Download Zotero.
  3. Download the Word or Open Office plugins. Choose the appropriate plugin based on your operating system and word processor.
Zotero icon

Use Google Docs with Zotero

Zotero works well with Word and OpenOffice, but you can also use it with Google Docs. (It's a little clunky, but if you're hooked on Google Docs, it's better than nothing!)

To insert a Zotero reference in Google Docs, use keyboard shortcuts:

  1. Open your Google Doc and your Zotero library.
  2. In your Zotero window, click on the record you want to cite. 
    1. To copy an end-of-document reference, use keyboard shortcut: CTRL+ALT+C. 
    2. To copy an in-text citation, use keyboard shortcut: CTRL+ALT+A.
  3. Paste it into your Google Doc.
  4. To add a bibliography at the end of your document, in Zotero, select the citations you used, right-click, select “Create Bibliography from Selected Items,” and choose “Export to Clipboard.” Then paste into Google Docs.

Getting help with Zotero

Visit the Zotero website to download the program. For help, see Zotero's guides, including a quick tour to get started. To use Zotero with word processing programs, such as Word and OpenOffice, there are a few extra steps to set up. If you have questions or comments about using Zotero in conjunction with library-supported resources, please use Ask Us!