Why We Love Zotero

Giving your sources credit is one of the things that makes scholarly writing different from other kinds of writing. The mechanics of how to do it change from discipline to discipline, and sometimes from journal to journal. Trying to keep all the details clear and build citations and bibliographies can be time-consuming and aggravating. As librarians, we’ve watched researchers’ first encounters with Zotero many times, and we always delight in their expressions of relief.

Here are a few things we enjoy demonstrating:

When you find a source, one click on a browser icon can import all of its bibliographic information, and another two clicks can add it to your document, fully formatted as a Chicago-style footnote:

Heyer, Kristen E. “Bridging the Divide in Contemporary U.S. Catholic Social Ethics.” Theological Studies 66, no. 2 (2005): 401–440. https://doi.org/10.1177/004056390506600208.

With a few more clicks, you can change it–and every other citation and bibliographic entry in your paper–to APA format:

Heyer, K. E. (2005). Bridging the divide in contemporary U.S. Catholic social ethics. Theological Studies, 66(2), 401–440. https://doi.org/10.1177/004056390506600208

You can add the record to a folder to organize it, and/or add it to a group and share that group with anyone from a small collaborative team to just about any arrangement of public or private group.

Core features:

  • Rapidly imports information through a button built into the portal you’re already familiar with: your web browser
  • Easily creates citations and bibliographies in thousands of styles, including journal-specific house styles
  • Keeps a comprehensive record of your sources for future projects
  • Has plugins for Word, Google Docs, and other word processors so you can cite as you write
  • Doesn’t lock you in. Import from and export to a wide variety of other software
  • It works. It’s open-source, and has legions of dedicated coders constantly adjusting it to work with evolving products, citation styles, and web standards

Bonus features:

  • Handles websites and YouTube videos as well as scholarly materials
  • Recognizes lots of sources for books, not just library catalogs and Amazon
  • Automatically saves screenshots of websites and downloads PDFs when they’re available
  • Handles almost any kind of file (Word document, image, etc.) you’d want to attach to a citation
  • Free

We’re fans of Zotero, obviously, but there are other citation management tools. Take a look at our guide to Citing Sources for comparisons with other tools and a little more context.

Steve Runge

Learning Commons Manager, O'Neill Library

Chris Strauber

Senior Research Librarian/Bibliographer, O'Neill Library