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ENGE Instructor Toolkit: Managing References with Zotero

Zotero Overview

This page provides information about Zotero, a free, easy-to-use citation manager recommended for first-year students. Information that's included on the student guide is below, as well as additional information for faculty. 

Citation managers allow you to build your own database of sources - articles, books, websites, and more. They provide tools that simplify in-text citations and bibliography creation for research papers. Citation managers may also include collaborative options like the ability to share all or parts of your citation database with others.

Zotero is a free citation manager available from, and it exists as a desktop version, an online version, and a browser extension. It's great at collecting citation information from webpages as well as from databases, and you can create groups to share citations with others. It also has a plug-in that allows you to cite sources in MS Word, LibreOffice, and Google Docs. 

Check out the tutorial and other information below to learn how to use Zotero.

Zotero FAQs

Why Zotero instead of other citation managers (like EndNote or Mendeley)? 

  • Zotero is free and easy to use, and it has the functionality that first-year students need without the additional features that they don't. It works well across different operating systems and types of computers, and the group libraries feature is easy to use in comparison to other tools. Through the browser connector, it also integrates with Google Docs, and it's the only major citation manager that offers this feature. 

What if students need to use a different citation manager in their majors? 

  • Although every citation manager has a different interface and offers some different options, they all work in roughly the same way. If a student learns to use Zotero now, they will find it easy to learn to use a different citation manager in the future if that's required. It's also possible to transfer references from one citation manager to another (for directions, just Google "transferring references from [citation manager] to [citation manager]") so that students won't lose the references they already have if they need to switch. 

Is Zotero worth the time for students it will take for students to learn to use it? 

  • Students should be able to learn the basics of Zotero from the tutorial or slides below in about 30 minutes. After they know the basics, it will take a bit of practice to grow comfortable using the tool, but a bit of practice when they're not on a deadline should make them ready to use it to store references during the search phase and cite references in a writing project. Benefits include better organization of references, improved communication among group members using the group libraries feature, and correct citations created in less time. Many students find creating citations difficult and stressful, and they worry about accidental plagiarism. While Zotero cannot stop all forms of plagiarism, it makes citing references so quick and simple that students may be less likely to wait to add citations until the very end, which makes them more likely to forget a citation or cite the wrong source. 

In addition to the resources on this page, what support can you offer for including Zotero in my class? 

  • I'm happy to answer any individual questions that students have about Zotero. I've also created a Zotero Canvas module that includes an assignment and discussion board prompt, and I can work with you to get this added to your classes. While the number of ENGE 1215 sections doesn't make it possible for me to offer an in-person, in-class follow up visit to answer student questions about Zotero, I can work with you to figure out a way to address student questions in a timely way. 

30-Minute Tutorial: Getting Started with Zotero

Screenshot of Zotero tutorial

Zotero Workshop

Prefer a video? The above workshop was recorded as part of the Research Tools for Graduate Students workshop series and covers adding references to Zotero, organizing your Zotero library, and using Zotero to cite references in documents. 

Prefer slides?

If you prefer following along with slides rather than completing a tutorial, check out the presentation below. Step-by-step screenshots are provided to show you the basics of Zotero. 

Can I import references from a reference list?

If you have a list of references in a document and would like to get them into Zotero, you can use to convert the references into a file that can be imported into Zotero. Just follow the directions on the site and save the references to BibTeX format. Download the file, and then in Zotero, go to File -- Import -- A file (BibTeX, RIS, Zotero RDF, etc.). Select the file from your downloads and click Open. The reference will be added to your Zotero library. Remember to check over the references after they've been added to Zotero to make sure they're correct.